In a breakthrough study with an experimental drug, researchers at University College London successfully lowered levels of toxic proteins in the brain that cause Huntington’s Disease. Experts herald this momentous achievement as the biggest win in the field of neurodegenerative diseases in 50 years.
Breakthrough study lowers levels of toxic proteins in Huntington’s patients
Huntington’s disease, considered a terminal illness affecting people in their 30s and 40s, is the result of an error in a section of DNA called the huntingtin gene. In healthy people, the huntingtin protein is responsible for brain development. In those with the disease, a genetic error corrupts the protein and morphs it into a brain-cell killer. The symptoms of the disease are like those of Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and motor neurone disease – all in one – and its course typically runs 10-20 years followed by death.
In the 46-patient study, the drug targeted the root cause of Huntington’s – the level of the toxic proteins in the nervous system – and successfully lowered it in those who received the drug. The hope is that this treatment will silence the gene once and for all – thus slowing or even preventing the disease altogether. While doctors are not validating the drug as a cure at this point, there is high hope for Huntington’s patients after a safe and well-received trial. Since drug trials and FDA approval typically take years, people currently living with the condition can look to dietary changes to help slow down its progression.
Dietary component to Huntington’s treatment
While the verdict is still out on the new drug treatment, there is extensive ongoing research linking diet and neurodegenerative diseases like Huntington’s. Specifically, PET scans reveal that some people with neurodegenerative disease are unable to use glucose (simple sugars in carbs) as fuel in certain areas of the brain and nervous system. In this case, the solution might be ketones – the byproduct of burning fat as fuel instead of carbs. Following a high-fat, low-carb ketogenic diet forces the body to use fat for energy when its preferred source of glucose is unavailable. When the body breaks down fats, ketones are formed, which help fuel the brain. Ketones are also found in medium-chain triglycerides (MCT), a form of saturated fatty acid that boasts health benefits like improved brain function. Listen to this podcast interview with Mary T. Newport, M.D. who cured her husband’s Alzheimer’s disease with coconut oil (a major source of MCT) and ketones. She refers to a couple of people in Huntington’s early stages that feel they’ve stabilized by following her ketone tips. Research, such as this study, also points to ketones’ positive benefit on brain health in aging, Alzheimer’s, and Huntington’s populations.
For more information on a ketogenic diet, read Is The Full Ketogenic Diet Bulletproof?
Besides ketones, upping intake of butyrate, found in grass-fed butter, may help to offset Huntington’s disease symptoms. Studies demonstrate butyrate is beneficial for cognitive function, gut health, and some genetic neurodegenerative diseases. In mice with Huntington’s disease, a sodium butyrate treatment turned off the neurodegenerative genes for the disease Read up on butyrate (butter), then learn how to add it to your coffee – a simple step you can take to care for your brain.