Eating fish and seafood reduces risk of rheumatoid arthritis

NewsGuard 100/100 Score

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is one of the most commonly occurring illnesses in women and affects about 1% of the world’s population. This autoimmune disease causes chronic and systemic inflammation in the synovial tissue, pain, bone erosion, progressive destruction of cartilage, and eventually, permanent joint damage.

RA impacts the patient’s quality of life, increases healthcare use, and affects life expectancy. To date, the exact cause of RA is not well understood; however, researchers have indicated that certain genetic and environmental factors are associated with the pathogenesis of RA.

Study: The relationship between animal flesh foods consumption and rheumatoid arthritis: a case-control study. Image Credit: Doucefleur /

Study: The relationship between animal flesh foods consumption and rheumatoid arthritis: a case-control study. Image Credit: Doucefleur /


Previous studies have reported some of the environmental risk factors that influence the progression of RA, including stress, viruses, smoking, and diet. Diet, for example, can trigger RA and act as an inflammatory response moderator.

Several studies have reported the contribution of dietary components in modifying the extent of inflammation and disease activity in RA patients. These studies have indicated that an animal-based diet, such as that which includes dairy and red meat, could aggravate RA due to their pro-inflammatory properties.

As compared to other parts of the world, autoimmune diseases are more prevalent in Western countries, which might be due to their dietary habits. Typically, Western diets consist of a high amount of saturated and trans fats, sugar-sweetened drinks, refined carbohydrates, and low levels of omega-3 fatty acids, all of which increase the risk of RA.

About the study

One previous case-control study reported that high consumption of red meat increases the risk of inflammatory polyarthritis. However, another study conducted in China contradicted this result and stated that no link exists between red meat intake and the risk of RA. 

As several studies have provided contradictory findings, scientists in a recent Nutritional Journal study sought to address this issue and determine the exact relationship between meat consumption and RA.

In this case-control study, newly diagnosed RA patients who visited a rheumatology clinic in Isfahan, Iran, were enrolled. All recruited patients were not diagnosed with RA for more than 12 months.

Some of the eligibility criteria for the participants included lack of prior chronic disease, not being pregnant or lactating, no history of food allergies, and no reported alcohol use.

The participants’ diet was assessed through data obtained from a semi-quantitative Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ), which included information related to the frequency, type, and amount of dietary consumption. Anthropometric data such as body weight, height, body mass index (BMI), and waist circumference were also obtained. The authors also collected data related to the socioeconomic status (SES) and demographic features of the participants.

Study findings

An inverse relationship between fish consumption and RA was reported, whereas a significant association was observed between animal flesh consumption and the risk of RA.

Importantly, a direct link was observed between processed meat consumption and increased risk of RA. Several studies have reported that processed meat intake enhances inflammatory mediators, including C-reactive protein (CRP).

Interestingly, other types of meat, such as red meat, poultry, and organ meat, did not show any significant association with the manifestation of RA.

Individuals with a higher intake of fish were less likely to get RA. This finding aligns with previous studies indicating a strong relationship between fish intake and reduced risk of RA.

One previous study revealed that consumption of oily fish significantly decreases the likelihood of developing RA. However, intake of fish oil supplements did not appear to yield beneficial results.

A previous Swedish mammography prospective study revealed women who consume one to three servings of fish daily are less likely to get RA. Scientists believe that fish intake reduces the risk of RA because of the anti-inflammatory properties of fish oil. They indicated that a complex reaction of other fatty acids also triggers pro- or anti-inflammatory activity.

Strengths and limitations

One of the key strengths of this study is the recruitment of newly diagnosed RA patients, which reduces the possible changing of diets since diagnosis.

A key limitation of this study is its small sample size. Additionally, the information on the participants’ dietary intake was self-reported, which increased the possibility of error.

The majority of the participants belonged to Isfahan; therefore, the entire population of Iran was not well represented. Furthermore, the study findings might have been influenced by potential confounders such as genetic factors and stress levels, which were not considered.


The current study strongly indicates that a higher intake of fish and seafood reduces the risk of RA. In contrast, high consumption of processed meat may significantly increase the risk of developing RA. In the future, these results must be validated using a large sample size that represents diverse ethnicity and geographical locations.

Journal reference:
  • Hatami, E., Aghajani, M., Pourmasoumi, M., et al. (2022). The relationship between animal flesh foods consumption and rheumatoid arthritis: a case-control study. Nutritional Journal 21( 51). doi:10.1186/s12937-022-00800-1.
Dr. Priyom Bose

Written by

Dr. Priyom Bose

Priyom holds a Ph.D. in Plant Biology and Biotechnology from the University of Madras, India. She is an active researcher and an experienced science writer. Priyom has also co-authored several original research articles that have been published in reputed peer-reviewed journals. She is also an avid reader and an amateur photographer.


Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:

  • APA

    Bose, Priyom. (2022, August 04). Eating fish and seafood reduces risk of rheumatoid arthritis. News-Medical. Retrieved on April 18, 2024 from

  • MLA

    Bose, Priyom. "Eating fish and seafood reduces risk of rheumatoid arthritis". News-Medical. 18 April 2024. <>.

  • Chicago

    Bose, Priyom. "Eating fish and seafood reduces risk of rheumatoid arthritis". News-Medical. (accessed April 18, 2024).

  • Harvard

    Bose, Priyom. 2022. Eating fish and seafood reduces risk of rheumatoid arthritis. News-Medical, viewed 18 April 2024,


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
Post a new comment

While we only use edited and approved content for Azthena answers, it may on occasions provide incorrect responses. Please confirm any data provided with the related suppliers or authors. We do not provide medical advice, if you search for medical information you must always consult a medical professional before acting on any information provided.

Your questions, but not your email details will be shared with OpenAI and retained for 30 days in accordance with their privacy principles.

Please do not ask questions that use sensitive or confidential information.

Read the full Terms & Conditions.

You might also like...
Fish oil in pregnancy linked to child weight gain and metabolic risks