Omega-3 DHA may reduce the severity of stroke: Study

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Omega-3 DHA may reduce the severity of stroke: Study

Related tags: Dha, Omega-3 fatty acid

Consuming the omega-3 DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) may reduce the extent of damage following a stroke by 25%, suggests a new study with mice.

Researchers from Université Laval in Canada report that feeding mice a diet rich in DHA for three months significantly reduced the severity of a stroke.

"The consumption of omega-3s creates an anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective environment in the brain that mitigates damage following a stroke,"​ said Professor Jasna Kriz from Laval's Faculty of Medicine. "It prevents an acute inflammatory response that, if not controlled, is harmful to brain tissue."

The study adds to an ever-growing body of science supporting the potential cardiovascular and brain health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids.

The heart health benefits of fish oil, and the omega-3 fatty acids it contains, are well-documented, being first reported in the early 1970s by Dr Jorn Dyerberg and his co-workers in The Lancet​ and The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition​. To date, the polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) have been linked to improvements in blood lipid levels, a reduced tendency of thrombosis, blood pressure and heart rate improvements, and improved vascular function.

New science

The new study, reported in the journal Stroke​, indicates that DHA may reduce levels of molecules that stimulate tissue inflammation and, conversely, produce a larger quantity of molecules that prevent the activation of cell death.

"This is the first convincing demonstration of the powerful anti-inflammatory effect of DHA in the brain,"​ added Professor Frédéric Calon, co-author of the study.

According to the Canadian researchers, the effects are linked to DHA partially replacing arachidonic acid (AA), an omega-6 fatty acid known for its inflammatory properties.

Study details

Mice that were genetically pre-disposed to stroke were divided into three groups: One group was fed a control diet, the second group was fed a diet with low levels of DHA, and the third group was fed a DHA-enriched diet.

The daily dose of DHA in the third group was about 0.7 grams of DHA per kg of body weight per day, which would be equivalent to a dose of 42 grams for a 60 kg human – a massive DHA dose.

Following three months of intervention, the researcher report that the high DHA group displayed an inhibition of levels of pro-inflammatory compounds, including COX2 and IL-1beta, but no changes in other inflammatory compounds.

A favorable change in the ratio of omega-3:omega-6 fatty acids in the brain was also observed.

“Since DHA is readily available, inexpensive, and reduces the risk of a number of health problems without causing significant side effects, the risk–benefit ratio tends to favor the regular consumption of fish or DHA,”​ added Prof Calon.

In an email with NutraIngredients-USA.com, Prof Calon added that major differences exist between the mouse and the human metabolism, and that comparing doses and their respective impact is "quite difficult". He noted, however, that since a 25 g mouse eats approximately 3 g of food per day, the DHA/EPA dose sums up to a dosage of approx 0.7 g per kg of mouse per day or approx 1.3% of calories intake.

"A mouse eats more than a human relative to its weight and has a much higher metabolism rate, therefore extrapolation of dosage from across species is challenging," ​he added.

"However, given a consumption of 2,000 calories per day on average for humans, this high dose would represent approximately between 2.5 to 3 g of DHA/EPA per day, which is still reasonable from a nutraceutical point of view."

The Laval-based researcher added that a lower dose may be sufficient in humans since mice have much higher fat metabolism.

Source: Stroke
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.111.620856
“Accumulation of Dietary Docosahexaenoic Acid in the Brain Attenuates Acute Immune Response and Development of Postischemic Neuronal Damage”
Authors: M. Lalancette-Hebert, C. Julien, P. Cordeau, I. Bohacek, Y-C. Weng, F. Calon, J. Kriz

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