URBANA A Vietnam veteran who conducted early-morning mine sweeps on that country's roads, University of Illinois nutrition professor John Erdman knows the damage that a traumatic brain injury (TBI) can cause. That's why he was happy to chair a committee that gave the Department of Defense recommendations that will improve the odds of recovery for persons wounded by roadside bombs.
"Within the first 24 hours after head trauma, patients need to receive at least 50 percent of their normal caloric intake, including a higher-than-normal amount of protein, to reduce inflammation and swelling of the brain and give the brain enough energy to repair itself. This regimen should be followed for at least two weeks," he said.
Erdman, a member of the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine (IOM), led a committee tasked with providing nutritional recommendations for TBI patients to the U.S. Department of Defense.
The IOM reports that in one estimate 10 to 20 percent of returning veterans have sustained a TBI, with other estimates suggesting that TBIs account for one-third of all combat-related injuries.
But soldiers wounded by roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan aren't the only patients who can benefit from these new guidelines. Victims of brain injuries received in motorcycle and car accidents, football and hockey players who have severe concussions, and even stroke victims need early protein and energy, he said.
"Inflammation, of course, is a particular problem in the brain because there's no room for the swelling; and the secondary effects of inflammation, which include cell death, pressure and hemorrhaging, are unacceptable," he said.
Erdman said the brain uses only glucose for energy and cannot readily draw on fat stores. "This glucose is used up pretty quickly so it's important that it be replaced. Protein is important for its immunological benefits and the role it plays in preventing inflammation,"
|Contact: Phyllis Picklesimer|
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences