Updated 19 January 2017

Cetylated fatty acids help osteoarthritis joints

There is a real need for alternative options that benefit patients with osteoarthritis and other inflammatory conditions. Cetylated fatty acids are proving to be beneficial.

Inflammation can shorten our life span considerably by promoting many degenerative diseases, especially in the elderly.

A huge amount of research is currently underway, looking at drugs that can inhibit the inflammatory process and control pro-inflammatory immune cytokines like Interleukin-6 (IL-6), Interleukin-1 (IL-1), bad prostaglandins and histamine, among others.

Currently, there are various options of treatment of inflammation – aspirin, NSAIDs, vitamins, minerals or various supplements, which may only address the joint pain without restoring function and health. And with prescription pain-relievers increasingly linked to heart trouble, gastrointestinal side-effects and renal toxicity, joint problems have become more worrisome and difficult to treat.

A real need for alternatives

While there can be many causes of inflammation, the final common mediators of cellular inflammation and cellular invasion are always chemical. These chemotactic mediators include cytokines, leukotrines, as well as eicosanoids, and this production is greatly impacted by levels of essential fatty acids in the body.

Recent studies, published in the Journal of Rheumatology and the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, have been conducted, using a complex of esterified (meaning they are stable and do not react with oxygen) fatty acids (EFAC), sometimes referred to as cetylated fatty acids (CFA).

Researchers looked at the effect on mobility and joint function in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee.

The first study

A double blind, placebo-controlled study conducted at the University of Connecticut, tested 40 patients who applied either a topical CFA cream or placebo twice a day for 30 days.

Researchers found that virtually every patient who used a topical CFA cream experienced significant improvements in knee range of motion, balance and strength as well as the ability to climb stairs, rise from a chair and walk.

No difference was noted in the ability to extend the leg between the two groups. Improvements were observed within 30 minutes, with cumulative benefits occurring after 30 days.

The second study

In the capsule study, (double-blind, placebo-controlled, multi-centred study), researchers found that after 68 days, the 33 patients treated with CFA capsules exhibited greater improvement in knee range of motion and overall function than those who were treated with placebo.

The treatment group again showed reduced pain and stiffness, improved balance and strength and better mobility.

“CFA provided relief even for those individuals also receiving traditional medications. Our results suggest that CFAs are effective in improving the symptoms of osteoarthritis and therefore should be considered as a viable option for treatment of this condition,” the researchers reported.

No side-effects or negative reactions were reported in either study.

Mechanisms explained

Various fatty acids induce changes in cell membranes and the responsiveness of the membrane to certain immune factors. They also play a role in suppressing inflammatory cell functions, decreasing cartilage breakdown (which triggers cell death) and, like NSAIDs, reduce the inflammatory activities of the cox-2 enzyme.

These anti-inflammatory functions are very important in preventing further tissue and joint damage while promoting healing. This explains some of the significant improvements in mobility and function.

Research has shown that CFAs inhibit inflammation in endothelial cells and decrease the pro-inflammatory effects of AA and other fatty acids. It has also been shown to reduce the production of the negative immune factor IL-6 and to control the immune factors responsible for inflammation.

Better mobility, less inflammation

In brief, CFAs restore mobility and reduce inflammation in joints. Whether ingested orally or applied topically, it enhances and lubricates cell membranes throughout the body, while restoring fluids that cushion bones and joints.

In doing so, flexibility and mobility are enhanced, promoting optimal joint health. The enhanced cell fluidity and elasticity allows the body to move free of pain and with ease.

Further benefits of CFAs include restoration of a wide range of joint health conditions, including sports injuries to joints, muscles, tendons and deep tissue.

- (Source: Editorial for Medical Chronicle, September 2006 issue)

Read more:

Diagnosing osteoarhritis

Foot and ankle exercises 

treatment for osteoarthritis 


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Professor Asgar Ali Kalla completed his MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 1975 at the University of Cape Town and his FRCP in 2003 in London. Professor Ali Kalla is the Isaac Albow Chair of Rheumatology at the University of Cape Town and also the Head of Division of Rheumatology at Groote Schuur Hospital. He has participated in a number of clinical trials for rheumatology and is active in community outreach. Prof Ali Kalla is an expert in Arthritis for Health24.

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