DHA in Fish Oil could Protect from Stroke Disability

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Brain tissue after a stroke
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Researchers now find that DHA, Docosahexaenoic acid, can protect stroke victims from brain damage and disability and aid in a speedier recovery. The findings come from Louisiana State University researchers who used an experimental model to find how the fish oil component can repair the brain up to five hours after the onset of stroke.

Dr. Nicolas Bazan, Boyd Professor, Villere Chair, and Director of the Neuroscience Center of Excellence at LSU Health Sciences Center was able to show the benefits of the omega 3 fatty acid that is essential for brain and nervous system functioning on stroke treatment and recovery. In the study, scientists administered either intravenous DHA or saline to mice at 3, 4 and 6 hours of symptom onset, comparing the effects on brain swelling and neurobehavioral recovery.

Impact of DHA from Omega 3 fatty acids on stroke

Dr. Bazan says "We are just now beginning to understand the significant impact of omega-3 essential fatty acids on stroke. There is no simple solution just yet, but each new discovery brings us closer to defeating stroke and other debilitating neurodegenerative diseases."

DHA in omega 3 fatty acids are known to reduce inflammation, protect from heart disease, boost depression and prevent inflammation that is the root cause of a wide array of diseases, but the benefits of fish oil for treating stroke victims has been lacking.

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The new study found DHA reduced neurological deficits associated with stroke because it reduced the area of brain damage by triggering Neuroprotectin D1 (NPD1, a brain protective molecule.

The volume of brain destroyed by stroke was reduced approximately 40 percent at 3 hours, 66 percent at 4 hours, and 59 percent when the omega 3 fatty acid derivative was given up to 5 hours after the onset, shown by MRI.

"We are in an unprecedented time, from a public health point of view, in regards to tackling stroke and other neurodegenerative disorders," concludes Dr. Bazan. "Stroke is an outright attack on the nervous system, and each year stroke kills over 150,000 Americans. Truly for the first time, translational research and the clinics are poised to converge in their public health efforts to combat stroke. From a therapeutic point of view, we can now see a light at the end of the tunnel. What we need now is for the political and societal views on stroke to converge in the same way that the research laboratories and hospitals are now doing. This would be a major step forward in fighting this disease."

Stroke can lead to long-term disability and the current treatment with "clot-busting" drugs has to be administered soon after symptoms occur. The effect of DHA from fish oil omega 3 fatty acids found in the study could lead to improved quality of life and fewer disabilities for victims of stroke. The findings also showed regeneration of "dead" brain tissue that occurs from lack of oxygen in ischemic stroke by 7 days.

Translational Stroke Research

Updated April 1, 2014

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