Traumatic Brain Injury Blog

DHA - What Can It Really Do To Protect Your Brain?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

DHA, otherwise known as docosahexaenoic acid, is an Omega-3 fatty acid found in certain foods and has been linked to claims promoting brain function such as protecting against traumatic brain injury, improving the symptoms of attention deficit disorder, preventing post-partum depression, making babies smarter and most recently lowering the risk of suicide.  But are those claims true?

A recent study of pregnant women found DHA supplementation did not lower the risk of post-partum depression or make babies smarter.  The other studies, however, did show promise for the important role that DHA can play in improving brain function.Brain Injury Food

DHA is not naturally produced by your body and is only found in certain foods like, fatty fish (salmon), eggs and dairy products like milk or yogurt.  For years the benefits of eating food rich in highly unsaturated fatty acids has been championed for heart health but only recently has focused shifted to the benefits of promoting and protecting brain function. Some studies have pointed to DHAs ability to limit the damage from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) by reducing inflammation and increasing anti-apoptotic factors.  One study at the West Virginia School of Medicine found DHA supplementation reduced biomarkers of neural inflammation and cell death which could give hope to individuals who experience a TBI as well as the doctors who treat them.

More recently, a story published in the Los Angeles Times focused on military suicides linked low levels of DHA.  The military reviewed medical records of roughly 800 servicemen and women who committed suicide over a six year period and compared those records against similar personnel who never reported any attempts of suicide.  What they discovered was interesting.  Those who had low levels of DHA were much more likely to be suicide victims than those with very high levels of DHA.  The military has considered these findings to be of particular importance since a year ago when they launched a special committee to search for ways to improve their suicide-prevention programs.  The military has been much more focused on suicide prevention since their rate of suicide reached a peak at nearly twice the national average in 2008.

While much more research is needed before these claims for DHA can be substantiated, the initial results look promising. 






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