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06.07.2014


DHA combined with exercise protects brain against knocks

If you consume relatively large amounts of the fish fatty acid DHA through your diet or supplements, your brain will be more resilient to knocks, bumps or falls. And that protective effect of DHA is enhanced by exercise, according to an animal study that physiologists at the University of California at Los Angeles published in Neuroscience.

Brain damage
DHA combined with exercise protects brain against knocks

DHA
Athletes engaged in combat sports, and who therefore take lots of knocks on the head, probably benefit from fish oil supplements. We wrote about this three years ago. Frequent exercise also helps the brain to deal with damage from knocks. So the researchers performed an experiment, in which they gave rats concussion [FPI], to see whether physical exercise and DHA mutually reinforce the protective effects they have on the brain.

DHA
The researchers gave half of the rats food that consisted of 1.2 percent DHA. The other half was given standard feed [RGD].

Half of the rats in each group were placed in a cage with a treadmill that they could use as much as they wanted to run in [Exc]. The other half of the two groups had no treadmill, so were not physically active [Sed].

Concussion
After 12 days the researchers gave the rats concussion. They then let the animals recover for seven days, after which they examined them. During the recovery days the animals were kept on the same diet and exercise regime as previously.

Learning
At the end of the recovery week the researchers got the rats to swim on several occasions in an aquarium that was fitted with an invisible platform. The researchers recorded how long it took for the rats to learn where the platform was.


DHA combined with exercise protects brain against knocks


The researchers observed that the concussion caused the rats to take longer to find the platform than the rats in a control group that had not had concussion [Sham]. DHA supplementation resulted in a shorter amount of search time, and when combined with physical exercise the time was even less.


DHA combined with exercise protects brain against knocks


The concussion reduced the concentration of DHA in the brain tissue. DHA supplementation restored that partially, and the recovery was faster when physical exercise was added, as is shown on the left below. [Dotted line: DHA concentration in rats with no concussion.]

BDNF
Concussion reduced the synthesis of BDNF, a growth factor involved in the growth of brain cells and the creation of new synapses. DHA supplementation and exercise boosted the synthesis of BDNF, and the combination of the two boosted the amount of BDNF in the brain cells even more, as the figure on the right below shows.


DHA combined with exercise protects brain against knocks DHA combined with exercise protects brain against knocks


Source:
Neuroscience. 2013 Sep 17;248:655-63.

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