Cross-sectional survey on the habits, attitudes and perceived benefits of fish oil supplement use in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis
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Background – Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory condition and current medication are not totally effective. As a result, many patients use fish oil supplements as a form of complementary medicine. Significant evidence from randomised control trials indicates fish oils elicit therapeutic benefits at doses of >3g/day. This study aimed to investigate the habits, attitudes and perceived benefits of fish oil supplement use in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis. Methods – A cross-sectional survey using an online self-administered questionnaire designed to assess the habits, attitudes and perceptions of individuals with rheumatoid arthritis regarding the use of fish oil supplements. Participants were recruited using convenience sampling via online social media groups. Descriptive statistical tests were conducted using Microsoft Excel (2016). Inferential statistical tests were conducted using Microsoft Excel and ‘Statistical Package for the Social Sciences’ (SPSS; v24.0, Chicago, Ill, 2016). Results – 49 respondents completed questionnaires. Participants were predominantly female (86%) compared to males (14%). The majority of respondents (71%) indicated they took fish oil supplements as opposed (29%) that did not take supplements. More females than males reported taking fish oil supplements, but this was not statistically significant (Chi-squared, p=>0.009, t=<0.001, df=1). The mean number of fish oil supplement servings per day for women (2.43 1.85 SD) was slightly higher than for men ( 2.00 1.20 SD), this was not statistically significant (Mann-Whitney, p=0.567). The most popular reason for taking fish oil supplements reported by respondents was to help with pain and inflammation (n = 22). Fish oil supplement users had higher mean attitude scores and more positive attitudes than non-users (Mann-Whitney, p=<0.001). Respondents highlighted the internet, websites and forums as their primary source of information. 37% felt unsure as to whether there was enough trusted information. Overall 67% of respondents felt fish oil supplements had a beneficial effect on their condition. Conclusions –This study found high prevalence of fish oil supplement use amongst individuals with rheumatoid arthritis. Many perceive taking supplements to benefit their condition. Healthcare professionals should be aware of the prevalence of supplement use and ensure up to date knowledge of the potential benefits and risk so they can be best place to provided patients with trusted information so they can make informed decisions on supplements
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