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Can proper nutrition help blunt brain injury?

Balad, Iraq trauma center

The Institute of Medicine suggested today that paying immediate attention to a person's nutrition - particularly providing adequate protein and calories within the first 24 hours - may go a long ways towards preventing the worst effects of trauma to the brain.

The U.S. Department of Defense tallied more than 30,000 cases of traumatic brain injuries in 2010, prompting this study by an independent panel of physicians and other experts. And sports-related brain injuries affect 1.6 to 3.8 million Americans every year, according to recent estimates cited in the panel's report.

Bruce Bistrian, MD, PhD, a panelist and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said in an article in the Wall Street Journal that early feeding can cut disabilities and deaths after head injury by 25 to 50 percent.

The panel evaluated the beneficial effects of nutritional supplements, like zinc, fatty acids and creatine, in acute care, but, in the end, recommended more research be undertaken on these promising treatments. Instead, the panel says the best nutritional first aid for traumatic brain injury is to provide sufficient calories and 25 to 100 percent more protein than the USDA recommends for daily intake. The enhanced feeding should be maintained for two weeks, according to the recommendation:

Such nutritional intervention is likely to limit the person’s inflammatory response, which typically is at its peak during the first two weeks after an injury, and thereby improve the ultimate health outcome. Research has shown that feeding the severely injured soon after an injury is known to help in reducing mortality.

Previously: DARPA-funded program aims to develop technology, therapies for brain trauma
Photo by National Museum of Health and Medicine

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