Background and purpose: Consumption of fish has been shown to reduce risk of coronary heart disease and, possibly, of ischemic stroke. Because docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is the most likely neuroactive component within fish oil, we hypothesized that exposing mice to a DHA-enriched diet may reduce inflammation and protect neurons against ischemic injury.
Methods: To visualize the effects of DHA on neuroinflammation after stroke, TLR2-fluc-GFP transgenic mice were exposed to either a control diet, a diet depleted in n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid, or a diet enriched in DHA during 3 months. Real-time biophotonic/bioluminescence imaging of the TLR2 response was performed before and after middle cerebral artery occlusion, whereas cytokines concentrations and stroke area analyses were performed at 3 and 7 days after middle cerebral artery occlusion, respectively.
Results: We show that a 3-month DHA treatment prevented microglial activation after ischemic injury, reduced the ischemic lesion size, and increased levels of the antiapoptotic molecule Bcl-2 in the brain. Additional analysis revealed a significant decrease in the levels of COX2 and IL-1β, but not in other proinflammatory cytokines. Importantly, long-term DHA supplementation significantly changed the n-3:n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid ratio in the brain.
Conclusions: Collectively, these data indicate that diet-induced accumulation of DHA in the brain protects against postischemic inflammation and injury. Because DHA is widely available at low cost and has an excellent safety profile, our data suggest that increased DHA intake may provide protection against acute immune response/brain damage in ischemic stroke.