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Can Omega-3 Fatty Acids Heal the Brain?

By Holley | In Health & Lifestyle, Nutrition | on November 8, 2012

 We’ve discussed the health benefits of fish oils multiple times in previous posts. Marcus gave us a general run-down of the health benefits in Something Fishy, Jim Wendler posted about it as a supplement when you’re recovering from a shoulder injury, Ruth talked about it as a supplement to take when you’re pregnant to help with baby brain development, and it’s even carried in the Intrepid store. You get the picture, omega-3 fats are good for your health…but can it repair a severely damaged brain?

A recent article by CNN covered the story of two miracle recoveries of young men with severely damaged brains. First was Randy McCloy, 26, who was the sole survivor of the 2006 mine disaster in West Virginia. He was trapped underground for almost two days while the mine filled with noxious methane and carbon monoxide. He had multiple organ failures, including his brain which was inflamed and cells were continuing to die. The doctors could either wait and see what happened or try a treatment of hyperbaric oxygen treatment and high doses of fish oil. The idea was to rebuild the brain with what it was made of when it’s developing in the womb. They also hoped the omega-3 fatty acids would slow the inflammation, inhibit cell death and potentially help reconnect damaged neurons. It was decided that they would give him a dose of 20g per day (typical is 2g/day). Less than three weeks after treatment started, he was coming out of his coma, and three months later he was walking and talking.

In 2010, a 17 year old was in a car accident and ended up in coma with a Glasgow Coma Score of 3, which was likened in the article, to the brain activity of a piece of wood. His brain was swelling and bleeding from pretty much anywhere. Not much could be done except to sit and wait, but they heard about the success with McCloy’s treatment and decided to try it as well. Two weeks after beginning the regimen, he started to come out of his coma, and only three months after his accident, he was able to attend his high school graduation.

While there’s no way of knowing whether the two of them would have come out of their comas if it hadn’t been for the omega-3 fatty acid treatment, but it has certainly sparked an interest in the study of the treatment as well as potentially using it for treatment of strokes, Parkinson’s disease and early Alzheimer’s.

Read the whole story for yourself, I found it all to be quite interesting and I plan to follow the progress of this research in the future. I’ll continue to use this as more incentive to continue my fish oil regimen and will turn more to omega-3 fatty acids when my brain is feeling sluggish during a long day of work.


WOD 11.08.12

Skills Day



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