Thursday, November 18, 2010

New Research Shows DHA May Improve Stroke Recovery

Hopefully very few of you reading this have ever had a stroke, but you probably have a family member or friend who has. This article is to shed some light on what research is looking at in regards to improving the recovery of a stroke patient and minimizing the damage caused because of a stroke.

In the Translational Stroke Research Journal published online there is a study titled Docosahexaenoic Acid Therapy of Experimental Ischemic Stroke. Now don't get overwhelmed by the title.

Essentially what they were measuring is recovery progress and damage minimized by supplementing DHA (essential fatty acid) after a stroke. What they found was that there was a neuroprotective effect if DHA was given within 5 hours following an ischemic stroke.

Ischemic strokes are caused by a blockage of blood to the brain because of some type of clot or plaque buildup in the arteries. Why this study is so important is because the area surrounding the the blockage can become irreversibly damaged within a few hours if the blood flow is still blocked.

Director of Neuroscience Center of Excellence Dr. Bazan from the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center induced strokes in rat by blocking the middle cerebral artery for two hours. Some of that rats were to receive DHA intravenously at set hours after the stroke was induced. Other rats were to receive saline intravenously.

Behavioral tests were conducted during the blockage and at 1, 2, 3 and 7 days following the procedure as well as examination of the brain.

A second experiment administered DHA at the 3 hour mark after the blockage occurred and they assessed the brain using MRI at day 1, 3 and day 7. There was also a third experiment conducted where after the DHA was provided at the 3 hour mark their brains were examined for the presence of neuroprotectin D1 (NPD1), which is a substance that has DHA as a precursor and also has anti inflammatory effects.

In the first experiment they found a reduction in neurologic deficits for those that received the DHA instead of saline and this was found to be true even at the 5 hour mark after the onset of stroke symptoms.

Those treated with DHA had total reduced infarct volume by 40% when given 3 hours after a stroke, 66% when given 4 hours later and 59% when given after 5 hours. The group treated with DHA and examined via MRI had smaller infarcts, which were actually not distinguishable from normal tissues by the 7th day. The third experiment showed that there was an increase in NPD1 synthesis in the area surrounding the tissue damage in the DHA treated group like they had hoped.

These findings are significant because they help identify a possible treatment for strokes and also help narrow down the time window when treatment needs to be administered for the greatest success. Understanding the impact of omega 3 essential fatty acids on strokes are just the beginning to unraveling and getting closer to finding a solution for strokes and other neurodegenerative diseases.

According to Dr. Bazaan we are in an unprecedented time in regards to making progress with strokes. Strokes kill over 150,000 Americans each year and most of the damage occurs within the first 24 hours following a stroke. There have been randomized clinical studies showing that patients who consume high omega 3 fat inttakes experience a decreased incidence of stroke. 2,4

Omega 3 intake may also slow down the rate of atherosclerosis which can lead to higher a stroke rate.3 The American Stroke Association even recommends that individuals consider taking a supplement that contains omega 3 fatty acids since most do not consume enough through their diet.

This type of research is what is going to shape our future health and help many of us from ever suffering from these neurodegenerative diseases.

If you are want to get a head start on protecting yourself go here:

To Your Health,

John Hall NSCA-CPT


1. Ludmila Belayev, Larissa Khoutorova, Kristal D. Atkins, Tiffany N. Eady, Song Hong, Yan Lu, Andre Obenaus and Nicolas G. Bazan. Docosahexaenoic Acid Therapy of Experimental Ischemic Stroke. Translational Stroke Research. Published Online Nov 4th 2010.

2. He K, Rimm EB, et al. Fish consumption and risk of stroke in men. JAMA. 2002 Dec 25;288(24):3130–6

3. Kris-Etherton PM, Harris WS, et al. Fish consumption, fish oil, omega-3 fatty acids and cardiovascular diseases. Circulation. 2002 Nov 19;106(21):2747–57.

4. Jeerakathil TJ, Wolf PA. Prevention of strokes. Curr Atheroscler Rep. 2001 Jul;3(4):321–7.

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