Q. I heard that eating red meat can increase the risk of getting arthritis. I eat red meat daily and don't understand how it could make my arthritis worse. If I stop eating it, will my arthritis get better?

A lot of information has been in the news lately about a British study involving people who kept detailed food journals. As a result, 42 percent of inflammatory arthritis patients reported eating at least 58 grams of red meat per day.

It was reported that an increase in other meats also had a higher incidence of inflammatory arthritis. Of participants eating meat from all sources, their risk of inflammatory arthritis almost tripled.

The media reported possible explanations that included increased animal collagen, additives, or even infectious agents.

One explanation that seems to have been overlooked is the type of fat found in meats. Meats are rich in omega 6 fats, which form arachidonic acid that turns into inflammatory prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are hormone-like chemicals that regulate cellular activity on a moment-to-moment basis.

Many other types of these prostaglandins are made from omega 3 or omega 6 fats. Conversely, the prostaglandins formed from omega 3 fats decrease inflammation, prevent degenerative cardiovascular changes and can prevent water retention. Good sources of omega 3 fats are fish and cod liver oil.

All prostaglandins are needed, as they perform various necessary functions. The problem is that most people consume too many omega 6 fats from meat and too little omega 3 fats. Therefore, the prostaglandins are out of balance. This imbalance throws the body chemistry toward the inflammation side. It is interesting that many anti-inflammatory drugs aim to decrease prostaglandins and their byproducts.

While many other possible health aspects exist related to the excess consumption of meat, you may want to make some changes:

** Decrease your consumption of meat and increase the consumption of fish.

** Avoid processed meats, including lunch meats, hot dogs and sausage.

** Avoid pork, as it may be more pro-inflammatory.

** Recognize that wild game, or free range meat, can be higher in omega 3 fats because of the animal's diet.

** Choose lean, reasonable portions of good meat.

** Flax oil or cod liver oil may also be helpful. Cod liver oil has a greater amount of omega 3 fats.

Try to follow these guidelines for one month to see if they make a difference. The results of a one-month experiment might surprise you.

I have known people who have not needed their anti-inflammatory medications after making changes, including the use of one tablespoonful of cod liver oil daily.