Nutritional armor for the injured warfighter: omega-3 fatty acids in surgery, trauma, and intensive care

Mary S. McCarthy, Brian B. Morgan, John T. Heineman, Robert G. Martindale

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Nutrients have traditionally been viewed as a means to provide basic energy for cellular homeostasis and amino acids for protein synthesis in all humans. Young, healthy men and women in the military today are presumed to be well nourished and mentally and physically fit to perform their duties in austere environments. Exposure to high-intensity projectiles, blast injuries, and other wounds of war, however, is an everyday occurrence during deployment that potentially challenges all homeostatic mechanisms. After sustaining such devastating injuries, critically ill, surgical, and trauma patients are in a constant dynamic state between the systemic inflammatory response syndrome (and compensatory anti-inflammatory response syndrome. Compelling evidence supports both immune and metabolic response modulation by specific nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, primarily eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The concept of providing nutrients as therapeutic rather than supportive agents to meet the basic cellular caloric and metabolic demands requires a major paradigm shift. Although the exact route and dose of these metabolically active lipids has yet to be determined, data from large clinical studies of cellular ex-vivo experiments in patients support the liberal use of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid in the setting of trauma, surgery, and intensive care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)88-94
Number of pages7
JournalMilitary medicine
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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