Fish oil is causing an ocean of comment… and for all the right reasons. It’s a natural remedy so powerful that it's changed lives.
Professor Les Clealand of the Rheumatology unit at the Royal Adelaide Hospital is a convert to fish oil and has witnessed remarkable results.
“We have an interest in the management of rheumatoid arthritis which we treat early and intensively and we use fish oil instead of the analgesic type of anti-inflammatory drugs. Our experience both from clinical trials and from long term use in the clinic has been very positive," says Professor Clealand.
And it seems it works on just about everything, from arthritis to cardio vascular problems and everything in between.
Greta King's rheumatoid arthritis came on without warning. Both her hands where so inflamed and so painful she couldn't bare to touch them. Unfortunately Greta experienced nasty side effects from analgesics prescribed earlier to treat her condition.
“There are very, very many medications that I did react to but I can mention Vyox, Celbrex, Mentathrex8, along with Panadol of course. I got the hives, my skin became very itchy, very irritated and my hands didn't improve a great deal," says Greta.
But once Greta got the good oil from the Professor, it was a whole different scenario.
"Unbelievable, incredible, yes within a matter of 4 to 6 weeks I noticed a huge difference with both my hands. With no pain and no oedema, swelling, I can then hold and grasp my tennis racket for example and hold my cards at Bridge and various things. I have a lot of flexibility in my hands and my fingers, and no pain whatsoever."
It was the same happy result for another of Professor Clealands’ patients, Graham Gurney. He suffers from Polymyalgia Rheumatica. An inflammatory disorder that causes widespread muscle aching and stiffness but you'd never know it now he's swapped the painkillers for the fish oil.
Graham was taking predisalone and it's a Cortisone based product and some of the effects are thinning of the skin, thinning of the bones and you gain weight.
"With the Cortisone products you have a return, goes backwards and forwards, you get pain, you’re off pain and so on. Now with fish oil it's all over, there’s no restriction at all," says Graham.
Before the fish oil Graham had pain and restricted movement.
“The reason we use fish oil is because it contains a high proportion of long chain omega 3 fats so it's the omega 3 fats in fish oil that we are looking for a health benefit. We now use fish oil as a foundation for treatment for almost all of our arthritis patients," says Professor Clealand.
Dr Peter Clifton, the director of the Nutrition Clinic at CSIRO is another who shares the same school of thought when it comes to fish oil.
“People who have had a heart attack probably 3 to 4 capsules a day would be enough and I would certainly recommend that people take it. A study found that 850 milligrams a day, which is really only 3 capsules of ordinary fish oil, lowered sudden death by 45% so it was strikingly positive that particular study," says Dr Clifton.
"It certainly is anti-arrhythmic so it normalises the heart rhythm, particularly after you have a heart attack."
But dosage does vary when it comes to capsules and liquid.
“We generally suggest 15mls of the bottled fish oil or 12 to 14 capsules a day," says Professor Clealand.
“But with heart disease it appears that a small amount really is enough," suggests Dr Clifton.
But Dr Clealand also suggests, “if someone has a new pain experience then it may be something serious that fish oil is not going to fix and those people should be getting a medical assessment."
With fish stocks dwindling, the scientists are looking for alternatives to this unique oil.
The CSIRO is working on getting plants to make it by putting in the genes that the algae have to make the fish oil.
Fish oil from plants we hear you saying!
"From a plant yes, so that will be on the market probably in maybe 20 years or so," says Dr Clifton.
Meanwhile the Rheumatology unit at the RAH Preventative Care Centre re-labels bottled fish oil with their recommended dosage and hands out free advice.
“Because we have a high turnover it's a fresh product and they can get extra advice about how to take fish oil, what the differences are between different fish oil preparations,” says Professor Clealand.