A diet rich in omega-3s reduces the severity of brain damage after a stroke, according to a study conducted by Université Laval researchers. The team, co-directed by professors Jasna Kriz and Frédéric Calon, showed that the extent of brain damage following a stroke was reduced by 25% in mice that consumed DHA type omega-3s daily. Details of the study can be found on the website of the journal Stroke.
Researchers observed that the effects of stroke were less severe in mice that had been fed a diet rich in DHA for three months than in mice fed a control diet. In mice from the DHA group, they saw a reduction in the concentrations of molecules that stimulate tissue inflammation and, conversely, 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,” underscored Frédéric Calon of Université Laval’s Faculty of Pharmacy. This protective effect results from the substitution of molecules in the neuronal membrane: DHA partially replaces arachidonic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid known for its inflammatory properties.
“The consumption of omega-3s creates an anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective environment in the brain that mitigates damage following a stroke,” summarized Jasna Kriz, of Université Laval’s Faculty of Medicine. “It prevents an acute inflammatory response that, if not controlled, is harmful to brain tissue.”
Professor Calon believes that this anti-inflammatory effect is likely transferable to humans. “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,” he concluded.
Lalancette-Hébert M, Julien C, Cordeau P, Bohacek I, Weng YC, Calon F, Kriz J. Accumulation of Dietary Docosahexaenoic Acid in the Brain Attenuates Acute Immune Response and Development of Postischemic Neuronal Damage. Stroke 2011 Aug 18. [Epub ahead of print].