Dietary Omega-3 Fatty Acids May Be Associated with Increased Neuropathic Pain in Nerve-Injured Rats

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Certain dietary proteins and oils are capable of decreasing chronic neuropathic pain levels in rats after partial sciatic nerve ligation injury. We tested, for the first time, the role of dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids in suppressing pain in partial sciatic nerve ligation-injured rats. Six groups of male Wistar rats were fed an identical casein-based, fat-free diet for 1 wk preceding partial sciatic nerve ligation injury and for 1 wk thereafter. In addition, rats received, via gavage, 1 mL/day of pure canola, corn, hemp, soy, or sunflower oil, differing significantly in their ω-3 and ω-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid content, or 1 mL of plain water. Responses to tactile and noxious heat stimuli were recorded before and after surgery and a difference score was calculated for each group by subtracting the preoperative from the post-partial sciatic nerve ligation values. Heat hyperalgesia, but not tactile allodynia, was significantly different among the dietary groups (P = 0.005). Heat hyperalgesia of rats fed hemp oil, developing the most robust response, was significantly larger compared with rats fed corn oil, developing the least pain model (difference score: 24.3 ± 4.1 s versus 6.1 ± 3.1 s, respectively; P < 0.001). These oils contain similar levels of ω-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (hemp, 60%; corn, 58%) but their ω-3 levels are 28-fold different (20% versus 0.7%, respectively). A significant correlation was found among dietary levels of ω-3, but not ω-6 or the ω-3/ω-6 ratio, of the six dietary groups and heat hyperalgesia (P = 0.006). We conclude that dietary oil might predict levels of neuropathic pain in rats and that this effect may be associated with dietary ω-3 levels.

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