Tuesday, July 3, 2012
A diet enriched with curcumin, a component of turmeric, and omega-3 fatty acid DHA can repair tissue damage and restore walking abilities in rats with spinal cord injury, a new study claims. The findings, published in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine, suggest that these dietary supplements help repair nerve cells and maintain neurological function after degenerative damage to the neck. “Normal ageing often narrows the spinal canal, putting pressure on the spinal cord and injuring tissue,” said lead study author Dr. Langston Holly, an associate professor of neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. “While surgery can relieve the pressure and prevent further injury, it can’t repair damage to the cells and nerve fibbers. We wanted to explore whether dietary supplementation could help the spinal cord heal itself.” The UCLA team studied two groups of rats with a condition that simulated cervical myelopathy — a progressive disorder that often occurs in people with spine-weakening conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis. Cervical myelopathy can lead to disabling neurological symptoms, such as difficulty walking, neck and arm pain, hand numbness and weakness of the limbs. It’s the most common cause of spine-related walking problems in people over 55. The first group of rats was fed rat chow that replicated a Western diet high in saturated fats and sugar. The second group ate a standard diet supplemented with docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, and turmeric compound curcumin, while a third group received a standard diet and served as a control group. The researchers recorded a baseline of the rats walking and re-examined the animals’ gait on a weekly basis. As early as three weeks, the rats eating the Western diet demonstrated measurable walking problems that worsened as the research progressed.