How is Fish Oil like a Football Helmet?

8 07 2010

Mouth guard, check.  Shoulder pads, check.  Fish oil, check…wait, what?  Yes, that’s right, fish oil.  New research is showing that fish oil (and its Omega-3 fat) may be useful for treating and preventing damage to your brain sustained from a concussion.

New research from the West Virginia University School of Medicine examined whether DHA (an omega-3 fat) could be used as a treatment after traumatic brain injury.  Rats were given either 10mg/kg/day or 40mg/kg/day of DHA for 30 days after brain injury.  Both quantities were successful at increasing DHA levels in the blood.  But the higher dosage was more effective at reducing the damage to levels similar to uninjured animals.

We can’t be sure if humans would see similar benefits from DHA until more research is conducted.  But since DHA is safe, affordable, and readily available worldwide, people who regularly engage in activities with a higher risk of head injury could benefit from taking it.  Dr. Julian E. Bailes, lead researcher in the WVU study, recommends taking 3g of DHA each day for the month following a concussion.

There is potential for DHA to be used to limit brain damage in sports that are more prone to concussions, like football.  Taking 1g of DHA daily may protect brain axons from damage.  To get this amount from fish oil, you will need to take 4 soft gels of double strength fish oil (ex. Nordic Naturals ProOmega or Nature Made Double Strength Fish Oil).  If you are vegetarian and do not want to use fish oil, Martek makes omega-3 oils (Life’s DHA) from algal oil.

Fish oil already has the proven benefits of improving your cardiovascular health and reducing inflammation.  Now those of us who engage in contact sports can add another good reason to get our daily dose of Omega-3’s.

© Randy Bird, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS and Randy Bird Sports Nutrition, 2010.