J Neurotrauma. 2013 (Jun 1); 30 (11): 897–906
Linda Hasadsri, Bonnie H. Wang, James V. Lee, John W. Erdman, Daniel A. Llano,
Aron K. Barbey, Tracey Wszalek, Matthew F. Sharrock, and Huan (John) Wang
Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology,
Mayo Clinic , Rochester, Minnesota, USA.
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a global public health epidemic. In the US alone, more than 3 million people sustain a TBI annually. It is one of the most disabling injuries as it may cause motor and sensory deficits and lead to severe cognitive, emotional, and psychosocial impairment, crippling vital areas of higher functioning. Fueled by the recognition of TBI as the “signature injury” in our wounded soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, and its often devastating impact on athletes playing contact sports, interest in TBI and TBI research has increased dramatically. Unfortunately, despite increased awareness of its detrimental consequences, there has been little progress in developing effective TBI interventions. Recent evidence, however, strongly indicates that nutritional intervention may provide a unique opportunity to enhance the neuronal repair process after TBI. To date, two omega-3 fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), have the most promising laboratory evidence for their neuro-restorative capacities in TBI. Although both animal models and human studies of brain injuries suggest they may provide benefits, there has been no clinical trial evaluating the effects of n-3 fatty acids on resilience to, or treatment, of TBI. This article reviews the known functions of n-3 fatty acids in the brain and their specific role in the cellular and biochemical pathways underlying neurotraumatic injury. We also highlight recent studies on the therapeutic impact of enhanced omega 3 intake in vivo, and how this may be a particularly promising approach to improving functional outcome in patients with TBI.