Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Oral Supplements for Improving Peripheral Nerve Health: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Nutr Rev. 2020 Apr 1;78(4):323-341. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuz054.


Context: Peripheral nerve damage can occur in a variety of systemic conditions and can have a profound impact on functional and psychological health. Currently, therapeutic interventions for peripheral nerve damage are limited.

Objective: The aim of this systematic review, conducted in accordance with the Cochrane Collaboration's handbook and reported according to the PRISMA checklist, was to evaluate the efficacy and safety of omega-3 oral supplements for improving peripheral nerve structure and function.

Data sources: PubMed, Embase, and Cochrane databases, along with clinical trial registries, were searched from inception to February 2019. Evidence was identified, critically appraised, and synthesized, and the certainty of evidence was appraised using the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation approach.

Study selection: Randomized controlled trials assessing the effects of omega-3 oral supplementation on outcomes of peripheral nerve structure, peripheral nerve function, or both were eligible for inclusion. Titles and abstracts of identified articles were independently assessed for potential eligibility by 2 review authors. For studies judged as eligible or potentially eligible, full text articles were retrieved and independently assessed by 2 review authors to determine eligibility; disagreements were resolved by consensus.

Data extraction: Fifteen trials were included. Two clinically similar studies that investigated the effect of omega-3 supplementation in individuals receiving chemotherapy were meta-analyzed. Pooled data showed a reduced incidence of peripheral neuropathy (RR = 0.58; 95%CI, 0.43-0.77) and a preservation of sensory nerve action potential amplitudes with omega-3 supplementation compared with placebo (MD = 4.19 µV; 95%CI; 2.19-6.19).

Conclusion: This review finds, with low certainty, that omega-3 supplementation attenuates sensory loss and reduces the incidence of neuropathy secondary to oxaliplatin and paclitaxel treatment relative to placebo. There is currently limited evidence to ascertain whether omega-3 supplementation is beneficial in other systemic conditions characterized by peripheral nerve damage.

Systematic review registration: PROSPERO registration number CRD 42018086297.

Keywords: chemotherapy; cornea; fatty acid; nerve; neuroprotection; omega-3; peripheral neuropathy; small fiber neuropathy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't