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DHA in omega 3 fatty acids might protect from traumatic brain injury

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

DHA found in fish oil might protect athletes and soldiers from traumatic brain injury, found in animal studies.
In a new study, researchers found rats with traumatic brain injury (TBI) given the highest doses of the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexanoic acid or DHA experienced less damage to brain tissue.

The preliminary results were compared to rats given the omega 3 fatty acid at varying doses. Scientists found a substantial reduction in the expression of beta amyloid protein that is implicated in the formation and progression of Alzheimer's disease in rats given the highest dose of DHA.

Researchers gave the rats different doses, comparing cellular damage from traumatic brain injury after one month. The animals given the 40mg/kg of omega 3 fatty acid experienced the least tissue damage from TBI.

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According to the authors, "The potential for DHA to provide prophylactic benefit to the brain against traumatic injury appears promising and requires further investigation."

Dr. Julian E. Bailes of West Virginia University, Morgantown and colleagues conducted the study that raises the possibility that soldiers, elders, children, individuals at high risk for stroke, and athletes at high risk from the effects of traumatic brain injury could benefit from routinely taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements.

The authors write, "The essential concept of daily dietary supplementation with DHA, so that those at significant risk may be preloaded to provide protection against the acute effects of TBI, has tremendous public health implications."

In the study, the DHA supplement used came from algae. The findings add to previous studies that the omega-3 fatty acid could protect the brain from traumatic brain injury. Though the findings are preliminary, Dr. Bailes notes the findings are "intriguing' and adds to other recent evidence that the compound docosahexanoic acid might be an important first treatment for high risk individuals such as football players who suffer repeated concussions and at risk for chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Neurosurgery. 68(2):474-481, February 2011: doi: 10.1227/NEU.0b013e3181ff692b