The Potential of Vitamins and Minerals to Promote Neural Rehabilitation After Traumatic Brain Injury
Accidents and personal injuries are a type of concealed mortality and lessened quality of life behind more obvious chronic conditions such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. However, personal injury and accidents sit high up on the top causes of death in the world. Injury to the brain, known as traumatic brain injury, is said to affect 2.5 million people within the United States annually1. Brain injury severely impedes the individual through compromised mobility and execution of daily activities, but it also comes with a myriad of financial costs through hospitalization and rehabilitation. Research measures invested to produce pharmaceutical treatments for neural injury have, for the most part, failed to shed any light on efficient and safe treatment protocols. The shortcomings in efficiency spawn from the narrowness of treatment that only targets one neural mechanism. Nutraceuticals are in the new forefront of traumatic brain injury research from their ability to amend numerous biological pathways involved in therapeutic responses.
Biological alterations that ensue after injury to the brain include depleted blood flow, tissue damage caused by free radicals, and metabolic abnormalities. The nutraceutical intervention maintains potential to amend metabolic abnormalities by supplementing the brain, in the hopes of halting secondary damage. Due to the fact that neural injury prevents the processing of pharmaceutical agents because of vitamin and mineral deficiencies, supplementation may be the key to revise worsening of the damage and improved responses to medication.
There is a wealth of knowledge collected on the effects that various vitamins and minerals are capable of relaying to clinical patients suffering from brain injuries. Vitamins possess remedies to physiological functioning that are imperative for the health of the human body. Among those studied, Riboflavin, known as Vitamin B2, is a concentrated antioxidant received from meat and dairy products. Riboflavin functions within the body to suppress free radical damage and the deterioration of lipids. Riboflavin can access these antioxidant remedies within the neural cavity and in the blood with hemeproteins. Another vitamin, B3, or Nicotinamide, has been studied extensively as a neuroprotective agent, functioning to supply the brain with energy and deplete concentrations of free radicals. Clinical trials have revealed significant mobility and sensory function improvements in patients supplemented with Vitamin B3.
Additionally, Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) has a more removed function, yet very pertinent to neural activity. Pyridoxine remains in the liver and aids to metabolize amino acids and promote proper metabolic functioning, ultimately protecting neural activity. Ascorbic acid, commonly referred to as Vitamin C, is renowned as a deterrent for free radicals, but it also stimulates neural function by preventing death and damage to nerve cells in the brain. Another important vitamin for neural functioning is Vitamin D, whose deficiency is known to cause several cognitive disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The benefit of adequate levels of Vitamin D is exhibited through anti-inflammation, reduced oxidative stress, and nerve cell protection.
On the herbal front, several compounds commonly utilized in traditional Chinese medicine have emerged as effective remedies for brain injuries. Ginseng, with its prominent component saponin, has exemplified cognitive benefits through reduced inflammation and oxidative stress, partnered with improved mobility and cognitive performance. Flavonoids, antioxidant rich compounds found in fruits, vegetables, teas, and wine, are notably favored nutraceuticals for brain health. Flavonoids function to decrease oxidative stress and inflammation, preventing injury and cellular death in brain tissues. Furthermore, alternative compounds such as magnesium, zinc, carnitine, and omega-3 fatty acids have been studied as effective therapies for traumatic brain injury.
The wealth of research and experimental evidence proposing the use of vitamins, minerals, and nutritional supplements opens the gate for a whole new sphere of therapy for brain injury. The overwhelming mechanisms for therapy in many of these compounds are summarized as decreased oxidative stress and inflammation within the neural cells, contributing to improved function and hindered damage. Further research to investigate vitamin levels appropriate for human intake and confirmed efficiency will greatly support this field of research to introduce nutraceuticals as a natural alternative for the rehabilitation of neural function after injury.
Vonder Haar, C., et al., Vitamins and nutrients as primary treatments in experimental brain injury: Clinical implications for nutraceutical therapies. Brain Research (2016), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.brainres.2015.12.030