Due to a high level of brain injury in the field, the United States Military commissioned the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to look into the best way to immediately treat traumatic brain injuries. The institute found that a quick infusion of calories, proteins and vitamins should now be a part of standard care in the military. This research will cross over into the public sector as well.
IOM panel chairman John Erdman, PhD, professor emeritus of food science and human nutrition at the University of Illinois says:
"The investment the military makes will cross over into the civilian population for injuries suffered by those in car accidents, in motorbike accidents, by kids on soccer fields."
Within the U.S. military as a whole, there have been more than 200,000 cases of traumatic brain injury diagnosed since 2000, according to the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center; 2,124 of which were classified as severe.
In general, symptoms of traumatic brain injury should lessen over time as the brain heals, but sometimes the symptoms worsen because of the patient's inability to adapt to the brain injury. For this and other reasons, it is not uncommon for psychological problems to arise and worsen after brain injury.
"We were asked what's known and what's close to prime time. But in most areas, we need more research. We're a bit at the infancy of understanding which particular food components may enhance or protect someone from injury. Across the board, the military is trying to understand how to set the stage for the recovery of these individuals."
There are nutrients that are especially effective, in particular in particular choline, creatine, n-3 fatty acids, and zinc.
The studies reviewed showed the research panel, a mix of food and nutrition specialists, neurologists, and other experts that infusions of calories and protein begun within the first 24 hours of injury and continued for the following two weeks significantly reduce inflammation in the brain and aid recovery.
Any brain function can be disrupted by brain trauma: excessive sleepiness, inattention, difficulty concentrating, impaired memory, faulty judgment, depression, irritability, emotional outbursts, disturbed sleep, diminished libido, difficulty switching between two tasks, and slowed thinking.
The extent and the severity of cognitive neurologic dysfunction can be measured with the aid of neuropsychological testing. Neuropsychologists use their tests to localize dysfunction to specific areas of the brain. For example, the frontal lobes play an essential role in drive, mood, personality, judgment, interpersonal behavior, attention, foresight, and inhibition of inappropriate behavior. The ability to plan properly and execute those plans is known as "executive function." Frontal lobe injury is often associated with damage to the olfactory bulbs beneath the frontal lobes.
A wide variety of symptoms can occur after "brain injury." The nature of the symptoms depends, in large part, on where the brain has been injured.
Sources: Insitiute of Medicine Report Brief
Written by Sy Kraft