The nutraceutical potential of omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid in reducing the consequences of stroke

Biochimie. 2016 Jan;120:49-55. doi: 10.1016/j.biochi.2015.06.005. Epub 2015 Jun 16.


Stroke is a worldwide major cause of mortality and morbidity. Preclinical studies have identified over 1000 molecules with brain-protective properties. More than 200 clinical trials have evaluated neuroprotective candidates for ischemic stroke yet, to date almost all failed, leading to a re-analysis of treatment strategies against stroke. An emerging view is to seek combinatory therapy, or discovering molecules able to stimulate multiple protective and regenerative mechanisms. A pertinent experimental approach to identify such candidates is the study of brain preconditioning, which refers to how the brain protects itself against ischemia and others stress-inducing stimuli. The recent discovery that nutrients like alpha-linolenic acid (ALA is an essential omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid required as part of our daily diet), may be an efficient brain preconditionner against stroke fosters the novel concept of brain preconditioning by nutraceuticals. This review stresses the underestimated role of nutrition in preventing and combating stroke. Although there is a consensus that increased consumption of salt, fatty foods and alcoholic beverages may promote pathologies like hypertension, obesity and alcoholism - all of which are well known risk factors of stroke - few risk factors are attributed to a deficiency in an essential nutrient in the diet. The ALA deficiency observed in the Western modern diets may itself constitute a risk factor. This review outlines how ALA supplementation by modification of the daily diet prevented mortality and cerebral damage in a rodent model of ischemic stroke. It also describes the pleiotropic ability of ALA to trigger responses that are multicellular, mechanistically diverse, resulting in neuronal protection, stimulation of neuroplasticity, and brain artery vasodilation. Overall, this review proposes a promising therapeutic opportunity by integrating a nutritional-based approach focusing on enriching the daily diet in ALA to prevent the devastating damage caused by stroke.

Keywords: Brain preconditioning; Functional food; Ischemia; Neurogenesis; Neuroprotection; Synaptogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Ischemia / metabolism
  • Brain Ischemia / prevention & control*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Humans
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Neuroprotective Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Stroke / metabolism
  • Stroke / prevention & control*
  • alpha-Linolenic Acid / pharmacokinetics
  • alpha-Linolenic Acid / therapeutic use*


  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • alpha-Linolenic Acid