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BioMed Research International
Volume 2015, Article ID 519830, 8 pages
Review Article

Alpha-Linolenic Acid: An Omega-3 Fatty Acid with Neuroprotective Properties—Ready for Use in the Stroke Clinic?

1Institut de Pharmacologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire, Université de Nice Sophia Antipolis, 660 route des Lucioles, Valbonne, 06560 Sophia Antipolis, France
2CNRS, IPMC, 06560 Sophia Antipolis, France
3Inova Neuroscience Institute, Inova Health System, Falls Church, VA 22042, USA
4Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism, Department of Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Colorado Denver, Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, CO 80045, USA
5Obesity Research Center, College of Medicine, King Saud University, Riyadh 11461, Saudi Arabia
6Mercy Health Hauenstein Neurosciences & Department of Translational Science and Molecular Medicine, Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, Grand Rapids, MI, USA
7Department of Neurology and Program in Neuroscience, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, 4301 Jones Bridge Road, Bethesda, MD 20814, USA

Received 16 April 2014; Accepted 8 September 2014

Academic Editor: Juliana Maria Leite Nobrega de Moura Bell

Copyright © 2015 Nicolas Blondeau et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is plant-based essential omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids that must be obtained through the diet. This could explain in part why the severe deficiency in omega-3 intake pointed by numerous epidemiologic studies may increase the brain’s vulnerability representing an important risk factor in the development and/or deterioration of certain cardio- and neuropathologies. The roles of ALA in neurological disorders remain unclear, especially in stroke that is a leading cause of death. We and others have identified ALA as a potential nutraceutical to protect the brain from stroke, characterized by its pleiotropic effects in neuroprotection, vasodilation of brain arteries, and neuroplasticity. This review highlights how chronic administration of ALA protects against rodent models of hypoxic-ischemic injury and exerts an anti-depressant-like activity, effects that likely involve multiple mechanisms in brain, and may be applied in stroke prevention. One major effect may be through an increase in mature brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a widely expressed protein in brain that plays critical roles in neuronal maintenance, and learning and memory. Understanding the precise roles of ALA in neurological disorders will provide the underpinnings for the development of new therapies for patients and families who could be devastated by these disorders.