A growing body of scientific studies are suggesting that omega-3 fatty acids found in nuts, flax, wild fish, and grass fed beef can lead to the reduction of abnormal inflammation and restore a wide variety of cellular functioning within the body.
A recent study has shown that long term omega-3 fatty acid supplementation coupled with omega-6 fatty acid restriction improves cognitive function, reduces neuroinflammation (i.e., TNF-α expression), and increases brain cell production (i.e., neuronal progenitor proliferation) in mice. These results parallel and support the therapeutic benefit of high dose omega-3 therapy and omega-6 restricted diet recommended in the Autonomic Advantage Brain Recovery Program.
Omega-3 fatty acids (e.g., ALA, EPA, and DHA) are a variety of molecules important in the regulation of inflammation and cell function. Omega-6 fatty acids (e.g., LA and AA) are also important in activating inflammation necessary for tissue repair and the maintenance of healthy tissue and organ function. Maintaining a healthy ratio of omega-3:omega-6 fatty acids is critical in normal physical functioning, inflammation control, and long term health.
Unfortunately, Americans have experienced an explosive increase in their consumption of an omega-6 fatty acid called linoleic acid (LA), predominantly in the form of soy oil. In the 20th century, soy oil consumption increased 1000-fold.
The high intake of linoleic acid leads to decreased omega-3 levels by three mechanisms: 1) by the impairment of the conversion of ALA to EPA, 2) by the inhibition in production of DHA, and 3) by the competitive inhibition of EPA and DHA into the cell membranes.
The net effect of these changes has resulted in a significant increase in the omega-3:omega-6 ratio, and is believed to contribute a heightened level of persistent metabolic inflammation throughout the body.
Arrows Show Increased Stem Cells in High Omega-3 Diet
Metabolic inflammation is rapidly being linked to the inability of the brain to recovery from traumatic brain injury in addition to other forms of neuronal damage such as emotional trauma, inflammatory insults, and stroke. Metabolic inflammation is also linked to to a wide variety of illnesses including cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes mellitus, autoimmune disorders, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
Interestingly, this study also showed that an increase microglia number does not seem to be a major contributing factor, and that other mechanisms such as an increase neuronal progenitor cells and the reduction in CNS cytokine levels (TNF) activity may be more of a factor in cognitive decline and the neuroinflammatory disorders.
Understanding that the inflammatory cytokines, not the high numbers of microglia, are the problem points us in the direction that lowering inflammation is key to healing the brain after injury.
Other studies have shown that omega-3 supplementation reduces pathological microglia and astrocyte activation which occurs in post concussion syndrome, persistent traumatic brain injury, CTE, chronic depression, PTSD as well as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
In respect to patients recovering from traumatic brain injury (TBI), this study tells us that increasing omega-3 and reducing omega-6 fatty acid intakes can reduce the brain inflammation commonly found in TBI, can improve the ability to replace or repair damaged brain cells, and may potentially improve recovery of cognitive function.
Combining high omega-3 supplementation and low omega-6 fatty acid intakes with other forms of neuroinflammatory suppression is central to the success of the Autonomic Advantage Brain Recovery Program’s ability to reverse and restore underlying brain injury.