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A diet enriched with omega-3 fatty acid and an ingredient in curry spice helps preserve walking ability in rats that experienced spinal cord damage, according to UCLA researchers.

The research team from UCLA had its findings published in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine, which suggest curry and omega-3 fatty acids could help repair damaged nerve cells after degenerative damage to the neck.

Researchers studied two groups of rats with a condition that simulated cervical myelopathy. The first group of rats was fed food that replicated the Western diet high in saturated fats and sugar. The second group consumed a standard diet supplemented with docosahexaenoic acid — an omega-3 fatty acids shown to repair damage to cell membranes — and curcumin, an antioxidant linked to nerve repair. A final group of rats, the control group, was fed a standard rat diet and didn't participate in the same walking exercises as the first two.

Rats fed the diet containing the supplements were walking significantly better than the first group, according to the research. The supplements seemed to offset the injury's effect in the second group. The rats fed the Western diet had higher levels of cell-membrane damage compared to the control group, while the rats fed the supplemented diet had levels equivalent to the control group.

Researchers said the findings suggest diet can help minimize disease-related changes and repair damage to the spinal cord. 

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Published in Spine