Oliver
JM
,
Jones
MT
,
Kirk
KM
, et al
.
Effect of docosahexaenoic acid on a biomarker of head trauma in American football
.
Med Sci Sports Exerc
.
2016
;
48
(
6
):
974
982
; doi:
https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0000000000000875

Investigators from multiple institutions conducted a randomized, double-blind controlled trial to examine the effects of various doses of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) supplementation on plasma serum neurofilament light (NFL), a potential biomarker for head trauma-induced axonal injury. Eligible participants included National Collegiate Athletic Association football athletes at a single Division 1 program. Participants were stratified by their position of play and then randomized to 1 of 4 arms: oral ingestion of DHA for 5–7 days per week during summer football training, preseason camp, and the competitive season at (1) 2 g/day, (2) 4 g/day, or (3) 6 g/day, or (4) oral ingestion of a corn oil placebo. Artificial flavoring was used as a masking agent to blind participants to arm allocation and participants were advised to limit ingestion of DHA-rich foods. Ingestion of DHA or placebo was observed by research personnel to ensure compliance.

The primary outcome was serum NFL levels obtained at 8 time points: at baseline prior to summer training (T1), prior to preseason camp (T2), after preseason camp (T3), and at 5 points throughout the competitive season (T4–8). Serum DHA level was also measured at each time point and concentrations at T1 and T8 were compared among participants in the 4 treatment groups. The absolute concentration of serum NFL at each time point was compared among starter (defined as first or second team on the depth rosters) and nonstarter athlete participants. The change from baseline in serum NFL among starter participants randomized to a DHA group or placebo was compared at each timepoint.

There were 81 participants enrolled, 21 in the 2 g DHA arm, 19 in the 4 g arm, 22 in the 6 g arm, and 19 in the placebo arm. There were a total of 33 starters enrolled (9 in the 2 g arm, 10 in the 4 g arm, 3 in the 6 g arm, and 11 in the placebo arm). Serum DHA concentrations significantly increased in participants in each of the 3 DHA-treated groups from T1 to T8 but not in those in the placebo arm.

Serum NFL levels differed significantly between starters and nonstarters, with starters having significantly increased concentrations from T3 to T8 compared to nonstarters. Among starters, serum NFL was lower among those who received DHA compared to participants in the placebo group from T2 to T8 but didn’t achieve statistical significance until T7 and T8 (P = .02 and P = .01, respectively). The lowest DHA dose of 2 g/day produced the most marked reduction in serum NFL over the study course.

The investigators conclude that serum NFL levels increased in collegiate football starters over a season and this increase is attenuated by supplemental DHA.

Dr Weydert has disclosed no financial relationship relevant...

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