Thursday, February 11, 2016

Which supplements should I take for concussion protection or treatment?

Concussions are hot news, and athletes are looking to do whatever they can to not only protect themselves from concussion but also treat a concussion that may have already happened. One area of growing interest is supplementation for concussions. But what does the research up to now show to actually be effective? Lets find out by briefly exploring 5 potential supplements for those at risk of or post-concussion.

1. Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Numerous animal studies have shown supplementation with omega 3 fatty acids to not only protect the brain before a concussion happens, but also heal after a concussion occurs. However, as of now, no human studies have been completed to show the same. Except for one case study, there is nothing in the research to indicate that supplementation in HUMANS is effective. The good news is that there are currently two double-blinded randomized control trials in place to evaluate DHA supplementation and concussions in humans (one at East Carolina University and one at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center). So, stay tuned...

2. Curcumin
Curcumin is a phytochemical found in turmeric. Like omega 3 fatty acids, there have been many animal studies showing positive results both before and after a concussion occurs. However, no human studies have been done, nor are any in process at this time.

3. Resveratrol
Resveratrol is an antioxidant found in red wine, plants and nuts. Two animal studies showed positive results when supplementing resveratrol for concussion treatment. While no human studies have been published, one human study was just completed, so hopefully that data will be published soon.

4. Melatonin
Melatonin is a hormone produced in the body to regulate circadian rhythms. Animal-based studies show promise not only in the context of concussions, but also Alzheimer's disease, Huntington's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. While these effects have not been studied in humans, a trial is in place assessing using melatonin in children post-concussion having sleep issues. 

5. Creatine
Many athletes know of creatine as a supplement for helping build muscle mass, however research have shown that post-concussion, creatine levels in the brain decrease. For that reason, researchers have questions whether supplementation might be useful. The only human study completed did not assess athletes post-concussion, but children post severe TBI. While the results were positive there a longer recovery time from a TBI than a concussion (which is typically around 2 weeks), so it is hard to say if creatine would work that quickly.  

In conclusion, while many supplements show promise, none have been studied enough in humans to recommend taking them solely to protect the brain from or treat the brain after a concussion. Hopefully the human trials in process will tell us more about how we can most effectively fight the effects of concussions.

Please note that this post was sourced from a recently published journal article entitled "The Role of Nutritional Supplements in Sports Concussion Treatment," by Ashbaugh and McGrew, published in Current Sports Medicine Reports in the January/February 2016 issue. See article for full details and additional study references. 

Your Nutrition Coach,


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