Alpha-linolenic acid: an omega-3 fatty acid with neuroprotective properties-ready for use in the stroke clinic?
Biomed Res Int. 2015 ;2015:519830. Epub 2015 Feb 19. PMID: 25789320
Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is plant-based essential omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids that must be obtained through the diet. This could explain in part why the severe deficiency in omega-3 intake pointed by numerous epidemiologic studies may increase the brain's vulnerability representing an important risk factor in the development and/or deterioration of certain cardio- and neuropathologies. The roles of ALA in neurological disorders remain unclear, especially in stroke that is a leading cause of death. We and others have identified ALA as a potential nutraceutical to protect the brain from stroke, characterized by its pleiotropic effects in neuroprotection, vasodilation of brain arteries, and neuroplasticity. This review highlights how chronic administration of ALA protects against rodent models of hypoxic-ischemic injury and exerts an anti-depressant-like activity, effects that likely involve multiple mechanisms in brain, and may be applied in stroke prevention. One major effect may be through an increase in mature brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a widely expressed protein in brain that plays critical roles in neuronal maintenance, and learning and memory. Understanding the precise roles of ALA in neurological disorders will provide the underpinnings for the development of new therapies for patients and families who could be devastated by these disorders.