Fish oils are known for their beneficial health effects, but how and why they produce anti-inflammatory effects remains uncertain.
Now, British researchers claim to have uncovered a mechanism that explains why taking fish oils can help with conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. In the new study, the research team showed how the body converts an ingredient found in fish oils into another chemical called Resolvin D2 and how this chemical reduces the inflammation that leads to a variety of diseases.
Resolvin D2 could be the basis for a new treatment for diseases including sepsis, stroke and arthritis.
The team focussed their study at a particular ingredient of fish oils called DHA and showed how the body converts DHA into Resolvin D2.
"We have known for some time that fish oils can help with conditions like arthritis which are linked to inflammation," Nature magazine quoted lead researcher Mauro Perretti, Professor of Immunopharmacology at Queen Mary, University of London as saying.
"What we've shown here is how the body processes a particular ingredient of fish oils into Resolvin D2. We've also looked in detail at this chemical, determining at least some of the ways it relieves inflammation. It seems to be a very powerful chemical and a small amount can have a large effect," the expert added.
"This research is important because it explains at least one way in which fish oils can help in different types of arthritis.
"We can also work on this chemical and see if it can be used not only to treat or even prevent arthritis, but also as a possible treatment for a variety of other diseases associated with inflammation," he added.