Arthritis patients often take fish oil supplements to alleviate symptoms, but limited evidence exists regarding their efficacy. The objective was to evaluate whether marine oil supplements reduce pain and/or improve other clinical outcomes in patients with arthritis. Six databases were searched systematically (24 February 2015). We included randomized trials of oral supplements of all marine oils compared with a control in arthritis patients. The internal validity was assessed using the Cochrane Risk of Bias tool and heterogeneity was explored using restricted maximum of likelihood (REML)-based meta-regression analysis. Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) was used to rate the overall quality of the evidence. Forty-two trials were included; 30 trials reported complete data on pain. The standardized mean difference (SMD) suggested a favorable effect (-0.24; 95% confidence interval, CI, -0.42 to -0.07; heterogeneity, I² = 63%. A significant effect was found in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (22 trials; -0.21; 95% CI, -0.42 to -0.004) and other or mixed diagnoses (3 trials; -0.63; 95% CI, -1.20 to -0.06), but not in osteoarthritis patients (5 trials; -0.17; 95% CI, -0.57-0.24). The evidence for using marine oil to alleviate pain in arthritis patients was overall of low quality, but of moderate quality in rheumatoid arthritis patients.
Keywords: arthritis; complementary medicine; fish oil; joint pain; marine oil; meta-analysis; randomized controlled trials; rheumatology.