People that have suffered a traumatic injury face an uphill battle as they attempt to regain their health and fight the risk of depression as a long term consequence of the event. British researchers from Queen Mary at the University of London have published the result of a study in the Journal of Neuroscience that explains how omega-3 fatty acids play a significant role in preventing and protecting nerves from injury.
The research focused on peripheral nerve cells which transmit signals between the brain and the spinal cord to the rest of the body. Omega-3 fats from food sources including sardines, salmon, walnuts and flaxseeds provide for decreased cell death from injury and may offer significant protection against future damage.
Omega-3 Fats Help Prevent Nerve Damage and Assist the Repair Process
Current research indicates that our nerves do have a limited capacity to regenerate, but recovery is severely limited depending on the extent of the injury. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for the body's normal growth and development and have been well researched for their health benefits, largely focused on brain and heart health. The body is unable to manufacture its own Omega-3 fat supply, so it is necessary to obtain sufficient intake from foods such as oily fish, nuts and seeds or through supplementation.
Researchers studied the effect of Omega-3 fats on isolated mice nerve cells, known to parallel human nerve responses. They simulated nerve damage caused from an accident or injury by either stretching the cells or starving them of oxygen. Both types of damage can kill a significant portion of nerve cells, but enrichment with omega-3 fatty acids in cells gave them significant protection and decreased cell death.
EPA and DHA Fats Lower Sciatic Nerve Injury Damage and Prevent Muscle Wasting
The study also examined sciatic nerve damage in the mice. They found that a high level of omega-3 fatty acids helped mice to recover from sciatic nerve injury more quickly and more fully, and that their muscles were less likely to waste following nerve damage. The team leader, Dr. Adina Michael-Titus, Professor of Neuroscience concluded “Our previous research has shown that these fatty acids could have beneficial effects in a number of neurological conditions. This new study suggests that they could also have a role in treating peripheral nerve injuries.”
The findings from this research should come as no surprise to integrative health followers. The Omega-3 fats EPA and DHA are essential building blocks to all cellular structures in the body and are particularly dominant in the brain and nervous system. A healthy supply of Omega-3 fatty acids allows for natural cell repair and the effective chemical and electrical communications that are important to optimal nerve function. Consuming fatty fish three to four times a week or supplementing with molecularly distilled fish oil (1 to 2.4 grams total EPA/DHA) supports the nervous system and regeneration process after injury.