Omega-3 fatty acids are important for brain development and function, help reduce inflammation, and act as antioxidants in the body. As a result, omega-3 supplements have gained some interest for their potential beneficial effects on traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). TBIs can be mild (such as a concussion) to severe, but if you’ve suffered from any type of TBI, don’t rely on omega-3 supplements to get your head “back in the game.”

Research in this area is limited, and most of it has been conducted on mice and rats. In these studies, animals given omega-3 supplements before or after a head injury showed reduced signs of damage and performed better on certain mental tasks compared to injured subjects not given omega-3s. Far less research has been conducted on the effects of omega-3 supplements on symptoms of concussion or other TBIs in humans, but there have been some reports of benefit. While these findings are promising, it’s too soon to say with certainty whether omega-3 supplements are effective to reduce the risk of or assist in recovery from TBI.

Due to the lack of scientific evidence, it’s important to beware of dietary supplement products with claims to be able to prevent, treat, or cure concussions or other TBIs. In fact, dietary supplements cannot be marketed to cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent diseases.

Although omega-3 supplements haven’t been proven to help with TBIs, omega-3s are still important for your brain, heart, and overall health. It’s best to get your omega-3s from food, but if you choose to take supplements, do so under the supervision of your doctor. For more information on omega-3 supplements, please read “Omega-3 Supplements: In Depth” from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

TBI is a serious health condition that can have short- and long-term effects on how you think and feel. To learn more about preventing and addressing TBIs, visit the Human Performance Resources by CHAMP’s Traumatic Brain Injury articles, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s web page on traumatic brain injury and concussion.

Updated 28 March 2019


Administration, U. S. F. D. (2015). MPH Nutrition LLC 10/1/15 warning letter.   Retrieved 5 March 2019 from

Barrett, E. C., McBurney, M. I., & Ciappio, E. D. (2014). ω-3 fatty acid supplementation as a potential therapeutic aid for the recovery from mild traumatic brain injury/concussion. Advances in Nutrition, 5(3), 268–277. doi:10.3945/an.113.005280

Del Gobbo, L. C., Imamura, F., Aslibekyan, S., Marklund, M., Virtanen, J. K., Wennberg, M., . . . Mozaffarian, D. (2016). ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid biomarkers and coronary heart disease. JAMA Internal Medicine, 176(8), 1155–1166. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.2925

Galán-Arriero, I., Serrano-Muñoz, D., Gómez-Soriano, J., Goicoechea, C., Taylor, J., Velasco, A., & Ávila-Martín, G. (2017). The role of Omega-3 and Omega-9 fatty acids for the treatment of neuropathic pain after neurotrauma. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Biomembranes, 1859(9), 1629–1635. doi:10.1016/j.bbamem.2017.05.003

Hasadsri, L., Wang, B. H., Lee, J. V., Erdman, J. W., Llano, D. A., Barbey, A. K., . . . Wang, H. (2013). Omega-3 fatty acids as a putative treatment for traumatic brain injury. Journal of Neurotrauma, 30(11), 897–906. doi:10.1089/neu.2012.2672

Lei, E., Vacy, K., & Boon, W. C. (2016). Fatty acids and their therapeutic potential in neurological disorders. Neurochemistry International, 95, 75–84. doi:10.1016/j.neuint.2016.02.014

Lewis, M. D., & Bailes, J. (2011). Neuroprotection for the warrior: Dietary supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids. Military Medicine, 276(10), 1120–1127.

Mills, J. D., Hadley, K., & Bailes, J. E. (2011). Dietary supplementation with the Omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid in traumatic brain injury. Neurosurgery, 68(2), 474–481. doi:10.1227/NEU.0b013e3181ff692b

Pu, H., Guo, Y., Zhang, W., Huang, L., Wang, G., Liou, A. K., . . . Gao, Y. (2013). Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation improves neurologic recovery and attenuates white matter injury after experimental traumatic brain injury. Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism, 33(9), 1474–1484. doi:10.1038/jcbfm.2013.108

Shahim, P., Zetterberg, H., Tegner, Y., & Blennow, K. (2017). Serum neurofilament light as a biomarker for mild traumatic brain injury in contact sports. Neurology, 88(19), 1788–1794. doi:10.1212/wnl.0000000000003912

Trojian, T. H., Wang, D. H., & Leddy, J. J. (2017). Nutritional supplements for the treatment and prevention of sports-related concussion—Evidence still lacking. Current Sports Medicine Reports, 16(4), 247–255. doi:10.1249/jsr.0000000000000387

Vonder Haar, C., Peterson, T. C., Martens, K. M., & Hoane, M. R. (2016). Vitamins and nutrients as primary treatments in experimental brain injury: Clinical implications for nutraceutical therapies. Brain Research, 1640, 114–129. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2015.12.030

Wu, A., Ying, Z., & Gomez-Pinilla, F. (2004). Dietary Omega-3 fatty acids normalize BDNF levels, reduce oxidative damage, and counteract learning disability after traumatic brain injury in rats. Journal of Neurotrauma, 21(10), 1457–1467. doi:10.1089/neu.2004.21.1457

Wu, A., Ying, Z., & Gomez-Pinilla, F. (2007). Omega-3 fatty acids supplementation restores mechanisms that maintain brain homeostasis in traumatic brain injury. Journal of Neurotrauma, 24(10), 1587–1595. doi:10.1089/neu.2007.0313

Wu, A., Ying, Z., & Gomez-Pinilla, F. (2011). The salutary effects of DHA dietary supplementation on cognition, neuroplasticity, and membrane homeostasis after brain trauma. Journal of Neurotrauma, 28(10), 2113–2122. doi:10.1089/neu.2011.1872

Wu, A., Ying, Z., & Gomez-Pinilla, F. (2013). Exercise facilitates the action of dietary DHA on functional recovery after brain trauma. Neuroscience, 248, 655–663. doi:10.1016/j.neuroscience.2013.06.041