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DHA in Fish Oil can help Stroke Patients and More

Posted: November 28, 2010 at 12:22 am


The results of a recent study revealed that DHA, a component in fish oils, can limit the severity of brain damage in stroke patients when administered up to 5 hours after the onset of stroke.

A group of researchers from the Health Sciences Center of Louisiana State University has conducted a research showing the benefits of Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) against brain damage when it is given up to 5 hours after a stroke.  Dr. Nicolas Bazan led the team of researchers in this study.  He is a Villere Chair, a Boyd professor, and the Director of the Neuroscience Center of Excellence at the Health Science Center of LSU.  The results of their study revealed that an important component of fish oil, DHA, acts as a strong therapeutic agent that can provide protection to brain tissues and help encourage recovery in an experimental representation of acute ischemic stroke, even if the treatment is deferred by up to 5 hours.  The findings of the study are very significant because, not only does it provide a new treatment approach for stroke, but it also provide necessary information when it comes to how long the therapeutic window really is.  The said research was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the results of which are published in the Translational Stroke Research journal.

The Brain:  What causes stroke?

For any organ to function properly, it needs a continuous and sufficient supply of blood since blood carries glucose and oxygen, which are necessary requirements in order for cells to live.  The brain is one important organ that cannot tolerate a lack, or the absence, of blood supply.  When blood supply to the brain is interrupted, brain cells die.  This is a condition called cerebrovascular accident (CVA), or more commonly referred to as stroke.

There are different reasons why the blood supply to the brain is disrupted.  First, when the arteries are either narrowed or hardened, blood supply becomes seriously impaired.  The narrowing of the arteries is called atherosclerosis, and it happens when a person has been overly consuming the wrong kind of cholesterol – the bad one.  Fatty plaques deposit into the walls or linings of the arteries.  Over time, the arteries, which are the blood’s passageway, becomes overly narrowed by the fatty deposits, and blood flow becomes difficult and sluggish.  Not only does this cause lesser blood flowing to the brain, but it places the person in great danger of embolism.  The pressure exerted by blood flowing through narrow arteries may cause debris to lodge off, travel through the bloodstream, and then obstruct one of the major arteries that provide the brain its blood supply.

Another reason for the disruption of the blood supply to the brain is the occurrence of an aneurysm in an artery inside the brain.  Aneurysms are small pouches that are filled with blood, and the presence of which is considered to be abnormal.  When an aneurysm ruptures, blood will spill out from the artery, which will compress structures inside the brain.

When blood supply is cut off, an irreversible damage occurs to the core tissue located at the spot of the blockage.  The penumbra, or the core’s surrounding tissues, may also be damaged but the difference lies in the fact that it has the potential of being salvaged.  But there is a certain life span to the penumbra because, after a few hours where blood flow is not re-established and no measures are done to protect the neurons, it may also undergo irreversible damage.  This is the part where the research findings become very significant.

The Study Details

In order for the researchers to know how effective DHA is in the treatment and recovery of stroke patients, the research team from LSUHSC administered either saline or DHA intravenously at the third, fourth, fifth and sixth hours after the start of stroke.  The subjects then underwent an MRI test which revealed that neurological deficits were decreased because of DHA administration.  Treatment with DHA assisted in neurobehavioral recovery and reduced the swelling in the brain.  Destroyed tissue size was reduced by approximately 40 percent when DHA was given at 3 hours, 66 percent at 4 hours, and 59 percent at 5 hours. DHA treatment also triggered the production of Neuroprotectin D 1 (NPD 1) which exerts a protective effect on neurons.

Risk Factors for Stroke

The World Health Organization says that 15 million people all over the world experiences stroke per year, and the number of deaths is at 6 million. For people aged 60 and above, stroke is the second most common cause of death and is the foremost cause of long-lasting disability regardless of country of origin, ethnicity, gender and age.  In the United States alone, it is estimated that the indirect and direct costs of stroke amounts to almost $74 billion.

The most common risk factors for stroke are as follows:

  • Smoking
  • Increasing age
  • Diabetes
  • Heart valve disease
  • Patent foramen ovale
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Hypercholesterolemia, or high cholesterol levels in the blood
  • Hypertension, or high blood pressure

The Reasons Why DHA is good for You

DHA is one of the two types of Omega-3 fatty acids and the best sources of Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are fish oil.  Good fish oil, obviously, comes from good fish – the examples of which are mackerel, hoki, salmon and herring. Here are some quick facts about the benefits of DHA consumption:

  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is essential for the growth and functional development of the brain in infants.
  • DHA is essential for pregnant women as it helps in the functional development and growth of the infant’s brain.
  • DHA is important for adults since it helps maintain normal brain function.
  • Consuming plentiful amounts of DHA in the diet enhances one’s ability to learn.
  • A decrease in the levels of DHA present in the brain is linked to the development of cognitive problems and causes its decline especially during aging.
  • DHA helps prevent cardiovascular diseases since it reduces triglyceride levels in the blood.
  • DHA decreases thrombosis and at the same time, it prevents the onset of abnormal heart rhythms (cardiac arrhythmias)
  • Diseases such as some forms of cancer, thrombosis, myocardial infarction, adult-onset diabetes mellitus, depression, atherosclerosis, arthritis, and hypertension can greatly benefit from the positive effects of DHA.

Sources
medicinenet.com
healthyomega3.com
omega-3-fish-oil-guide.com
ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
eurekalert.org

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