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Docosahexaenoic acid: brain accretion and roles in neuroprotection after brain hypoxia and ischemia

Mayurasakorn, Korapata; Williams, Jill Ja; Ten, Vadim Sb; Deckelbaum, Richard Ja,b

Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care: March 2011 - Volume 14 - Issue 2 - p 158–167
doi: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e328342cba5
Lipid metabolism and therapy: Edited by Philip C. Calder and Richard J. Deckelbaum

Purpose of review With important effects on neuronal lipid composition, neurochemical signaling and cerebrovascular pathobiology, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid, may emerge as a neuroprotective agent against cerebrovascular disease. This paper examines pathways for DHA accretion in brain and evidence for possible roles of DHA in prophylactic and therapeutic approaches for cerebrovascular disease.

Recent findings DHA is a major n-3 fatty acid in the mammalian central nervous system and enhances synaptic activities in neuronal cells. DHA can be obtained through diet or to a limited extent via conversion from its precursor, α-linolenic acid (α-LNA). DHA attenuates brain necrosis after hypoxic ischemic injury, principally by modulating membrane biophysical properties and maintaining integrity in functions between presynaptic and postsynaptic areas, resulting in better stabilizing intracellular ion balance in hypoxic–ischemic insult. Additionally, DHA alleviates brain apoptosis, by inducing antiapoptotic activities such as decreasing responses to reactive oxygen species, upregulating antiapoptotic protein expression, downregulating apoptotic protein expression, and maintaining mitochondrial integrity and function.

Summary DHA in brain relates to a number of efficient delivery and accretion pathways. In animal models DHA renders neuroprotection after hypoxic-ischemic injury by regulating multiple molecular pathways and gene expression.

aInstitute of Human Nutrition, USA

bDepartment of Pediatrics, College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, New York, New York, USA

Correspondence to Richard J. Deckelbaum, Institute of Human Nutrition, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, 630 West 168th Street, PH15-1512, New York, NY 10032, USA Tel: +1 212 305 4808; fax: +1 212 305 3079; e-mail:

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.