Food and Behaviour Research

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Does diet play a role in reducing nociception related to inflammation and chronic pain?

Bjørklund G, Aaseth J, Doşa MD, Pivina L, Dadar M, Pen JJ, Chirumbolo S (2019) Nutrition 66 153-165. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2019.04.007. Epub 2019 Apr 26. 

Web URL: Read this and related abstracts on PubMed here


Dietary habits are fundamental issues to assess when modulating health and well-being; however, different nutritional panels may help individuals prevent acute and chronic pain.

Many substances, known to be active antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, should serve this fundamental task.

Antinociceptive and analgesic natural compounds include flavonoids, terumbone from ginger root, curcuminoids, ω-3 polyunsaturated 
fatty acids, and taurine.

Furthermore, correct intake of trace elements and minerals is strategic to reduce inflammation-related 

This review addresses these items in an effort to suggest new criteria for proper dietary supplementation to prevent 


Pain is naturally triggered by tissue damage and inflammation, but it can also reflect hypersensitisation of nerves that transmit pain signals - which helps to explain why chronic pain can be so persistent, even when the initial acute injury or inflammation may appear to have been resolved.

Medications for pain relief and management usually include aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and/or other drugs that reduce pain signalling, such as paracetamol or opioids (including codeine and morphine).  However, these are often only partially effective, and can also have many adverse side-effects, as well as risks from tolerance and on some cases, addiction.

This article reviews the evidence for the role of diet in pain management - examining the evidence behind many nutritional compounds that can increase the availability of anti-inflammatory and pain-reducing substances and/or reduce pain signalling in other ways, including  
  • the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) - found in fish and seafood
  • curcumin (found in the spice turmeric), ginger, and other compounds found in herbs, spices or other plant foods
  • taurine - an amino acid found in meat
  • polyamines - found in legumes
  • some essential minerals, including selenium, magnesium and zinc
  • Vitamin D
While acknowledging the complexity of the mechanisms involved, and the relative lack of evidence from controlled clinical trials, this review concludes that diet and nutrition can play an important role in the prevention and management of inflammation and chronic pain.

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