Polyamines are molecules that come from the amino acid metabolism and the urea cycle, a series of biochemical reactions that occur primarily in the liver and, to a lesser extent, the kidneys. Animals and plants receive polyamines through food. All cell growth requires polyamines and they are critical to the healthy function of the nervous system. Recently, however, it has been demonstrated that a polyamine-deficient diet relieves cancer pain and non-malignant chronic pain.
"This study looked to investigate whether a polyamine-deficient diet could relieve perioperative pain, including chronic pain before surgery and acute pain after surgery, " said Jean-Pierre Estebe, M.D., Ph.D., Department of Anesthesiology, University of Rennes, France. "Reducing post-operative pain has significant benefits for the patient because it is usually a major reason for longer hospital stays and recovery."
In this prospective, randomized and blinded study, 64 lumbar spine surgery patients were divided into two groups. The first group followed a diet of six Nutrialys drinks (Polydol manufactured with a low polyamine content) in various flavors, plus a European breakfast without fruit for seven days before surgery and five days after; the second group followed a diet of two Nutrialys drinks, plus a normal diet. Results were evaluated using a numerical pain-rating scale at rest and at motion as well as quality of life questionnaires.
Patients in the first group had decreased pain at rest before surgery, which became significant after surgery. This decrease of pain was also reported for pain at motion. Pain relief was more significant in patients with the most intense pain. Finally, patients in the first group had improved quality of life before and after surgery.
"Polyamine-deficient diets seem to be effective as a pain relief treatment for both chronic and acute pain," explained Dr. Estebe. "Of course, more studies with patients using the diet for longer periods of time need to be conducted to assess its usefulness long-term. However, with a good tolerance and compliance, polyamine-deficient diets are a new, safer technique for improving the management of pain in combination with the analgesic drugs classically used in humans. Functional foods, defined as food that may provide health benefit beyond traditional nutrition, is a new, promising therapeutic option."