Unsaturated fatty acids and pain

Biol Pharm Bull. 2011;34(8):1174-8. doi: 10.1248/bpb.34.1174.


Fatty acids, which are the essential nutrients for humans, are an important source of energy and an essential component of cell membranes. They also function as signal transduction molecules in a range of biological phenomena. Recently, an increasing number of physiologic and pharmacologic reports on fatty acids have improved our understanding of the association of fatty acids with certain diseases. It has also become apparent that functional properties of fatty acids are modulated by factors such as the amount of individual fatty acid intake and their distribution among organs. Recently, the functional relationship between polyunsaturated fatty acids and pain has been the focus of many studies. Both basic and clinical studies have shown that a dietary intake of n-3 series polyunsaturated fatty acids results in a reduction in the pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis, dysmenorrhea, inflammatory bowl disease, and neuropathy. In addition, levels of n-6 series polyunsaturated fatty acids are high in patients with chronic pain. These results indicate that polyunsaturated fatty acids play a vital role in pain regulation. In this review, we summarize a number of basic and clinical studies on polyunsaturated fatty acids and their association with pain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / complications
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / diet therapy*
  • Dietary Fats / adverse effects
  • Dietary Fats / pharmacology
  • Dietary Fats / therapeutic use*
  • Dysmenorrhea / complications
  • Dysmenorrhea / diet therapy*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / pharmacology
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / therapeutic use*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6 / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / complications
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / diet therapy*
  • Neuralgia / prevention & control
  • Pain / diet therapy*
  • Pain / etiology


  • Dietary Fats
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6