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Omega-3s show potential to protect against brain trauma

By Stephen Daniells , 20-Aug-2012
Last updated on 20-Aug-2012 at 18:36 GMT2012-08-20T18:36:02Z

Omega-3s show potential to protect against brain trauma

The potential benefits of omega-3s to reduce the long-term effects of brain trauma may be optimized by early administration, ‘in the emergency department or sooner’, says a new report.

Writing in The American Journal of Emergency Medicine, Michael Lewis, MD, Parviz Ghassemi, and Joseph Hibbeln, MD provide what they claim is the first report of the specific use of omega-3s following severe traumatic brain injury.

“Although further research is needed to establish the true advantage of using n-3 fatty acids, our experience suggests that benefits may be possible from aggressively adding substantial amounts of n-3 fatty acids to optimize the nutritional foundation of severe TBI patients,” they wrote.

“An optimal nutritional foundation must be in place if the brain is to be given the best opportunity to repair itself.”

Growing interest

Interest in the potential of omega-3 fatty acids to reduce brain trauma has been increasing, from both a military (battle injury) and civilian (sports-related head injuries) perspective.

In 2010, the US Institute of Medicine (IOM) identified omega-3 , along with coenzyme Q10 and antioxidants, as some of the ingredients to be studied for their beneficial effects on neurotrauma.

Case study

Lewis, Ghassemi, and Hibbeln present a case study of a teenager who suffered a severe brain injury in a motor vehicle accident. Ten days after the accident, the teenager received supplemental omega-3s (Ultimate Omega brand from Nordic Naturals).

The doses used for considerable – 9,756 mg of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and 6,756 mg DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).

“The patient began therapy that gradually led to cognitive and physical improvements,” wrote Dr Lewis and his co-workers.  

“Notably, the patient was given permission and attended his high school graduation 3 months after the injury to receive his diploma. He was discharged to home 4 months after the injury. Over the following year, Nordic Naturals generously donated a steady supply of Pro Omega-D (the professional version of Ultimate Omega) that also provided vitamin D3 (6000 IU),” they noted.

It must be stressed that this is a one-off case study, and that “further research is needed to establish the true advantage of using n-3 fatty acids”.

Source: The American Journal of Emergency Medicine
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2012.05.014
“Therapeutic use of omega-3 fatty acids in severe head trauma”
Authors: M. Lewis, P. Ghassemi, J. Hibbeln

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