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Research Suggests the Importance of "Feeding" a Brain Injury

A new report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) suggests that victims of traumatic brain injury need to be fed adequately and immediately to reduce the severity and improve survival chances.

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, an independent panel of experts assembled on behalf of the U.S. Department of Defense recommended that in the first 24 hours after head trauma, patients need to receive at least 50% of their typical calorie intake, including an increased amount of protein, to reduce brain inflammation and provide enough energy to help the brain repair itself.

John Erdman, chairman of the IOM committee and professor emeritus in the food-science and human-nutrition department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, indicated that while the new guidance is intended for military personnel who experience head injuries during battle, it can be applied everyday individuals who suffer head injuries like concussions from car or motorcycle accidents or sports injuries.

While early feeding has been shown to improve morbidity and mortality in people with head injury by 25% and as much as 50%, it is not always made a high priority during treatment when the focus is often on stabilizing the patient.

Questions still remain about how to provide energy to the brain and which nutrients might be most helpful and, therefore, further research is still needed. “What needs to be done is to verify that these things that show promise are effective in TBI [traumatic-brain-injury] patients and to establish the level and the amount of safety guidelines for it,” said Dr. Erdman. “They’re ready for prime-time research.”