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Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation Reduces Intervertebral Disc Degeneration

Zachary NaPier, Linda E.A. Kanim, Yasaman Arabi, Khosrowdad Salehi, Barry Sears, Mary Perry, Sang Kim, Dmitriy Sheyn, Hyun W. Bae, Juliane D. Glaeser

Orthopaedic Stem Cell Research Laboratory, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA, USA

Med Sci Monit 2019; 25:9531-9537

DOI: 10.12659/MSM.918649

Available online:

Published: 2019-12-14


BACKGROUND: Intervertebral disc (IVD) degeneration is a common cause of lower back pain, which carries substantial morbidity and economic cost. Omega-3 fatty acids (n-3 FA) are known to reduce inflammatory processes with a relatively benign side effect profile. This study aimed to investigate the effect of n-3 FA supplementation on IVD degeneration.
MATERIAL AND METHODS: Two non-contiguous lumbar discs of 12 Sprague Dawley rats were needle-punctured to induce disc degeneration. Post-surgery, rats were randomly assigned to either a daily n-3 FA diet (530 mg/kg/day of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in a 2: 1 ratio, administered in sucrose solution) or control diet (sucrose solution only), which was given for the duration of the study. After 1 month, blood serum arachidonic acid/eicosapentaenoic acid (AA/EPA) ratios were analyzed. After 2 months, micro-MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) analysis and histological staining of disc explants were performed to analyze the IVD.
RESULTS: A reduction of blood AA/EPA ratios from 40 to 20 was demonstrated after 1 month of daily supplementation with n-3 FA. Micro-MRI analysis showed an injury-induced reduction of IVD hydration, which was attenuated in rats receiving n-3 FA. Histological evaluation demonstrated the destruction of nucleus pulposus tissue in response to needle puncture injury, which was less severe in the n-3 FA diet group.
CONCLUSIONS: The results of this study suggest that n-3 FA dietary supplementation reduces systemic inflammation by lowering AA/EPA ratios in blood serum and has potential protective effects on the progression of spinal disc degeneration, as demonstrated by reduced needle injury-induced dehydration of intervertebral discs and reduced histological signs of IVD degeneration.

Keywords: Fatty Acids, Omega-3, intervertebral disc degeneration, Spine



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