Science Update

Recent Review Articles Highlight Nutrients to Support Peripheral Nerve Health

Injuries to peripheral nerves are associated with high rates of disability and healthcare costs. Causes of peripheral nerve damage include traumatic injury, inflammation, and obstruction. Two recent review articles bring focus on nutrients that may help support peripheral nerve health. 

One review article discussed the supportive role of magnesium in nerve health. The authors report that magnesium ions may be neuroprotective, particularly following nerve injury, due to their ability to modulate N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA) receptors and influence calcium ion levels. High-magnesium diets have been shown to attenuate inflammatory cell deposition, reduce inflammatory cytokine expression, and improve neurobehavioral and electrophysical markers. Magnesium supplementation also may support a reduction in apoptosis of Schwann cells. Deficiencies in magnesium have shown increases in pro-inflammatory cytokines including interleukin-1 (IL-1), IL-6, and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha). In human clinical research, supplementation with magnesium sulfate has been shown to be neuroprotective in certain prenatal settings. The study furthered the discussion regarding magnesium’s potential for peripheral nerve support through a review of different preparations of magnesium in laboratory and animal studies. Magnesium filaments, alloys, and other biomaterials featuring magnesium may be a subject for compelling new research in the potential for nerve regeneration and proliferation. 

Another review article evaluated current literature regarding many supportive nutrients for peripheral nerve health. The authors reported that in an animal study, omega-3 (n-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) were shown to prevent nerve damage and demyelination in a simulation of peripheral nerve degeneration likely through its actions in support of healthy responses to inflammation and oxidative stress. Another study in a murine population with chronic constriction injury of the sciatic nerve indicated that the administration of a diet enriched with n-3 PUFAs relieved neuropathic pain and aided in the overall recovery process. 

Additionally, one recent study explored the supportive role of cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) and cyanocobalamin (vitamin B12) for four weeks in animals with sciatic nerve pathologies. The study found that cholecalciferol and cyanocobalamin had a synergistic effect and supported the improvement of nerve regeneration. On its own, vitamin B12 may also support nerve health through its ability to increase the expression of growth factors including brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). It has been shown in studies to increase the expression of myelin basic protein in Schwann cells. The study discussed other possible nerve-supportive nutrients including vitamin B9, zinc, and calcium.

The above recently published review articles suggest that a balanced diet and supplementation with certain nutrients such as n-3 PUFAs, magnesium, and other vitamins and minerals may provide support for peripheral nerve health. 

By Colleen Ambrose, ND, MAT