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Brain Health | Essential Fatty Acids Slow or Reverse Progression of Huntington’s

Essential Fatty Acids Slow or Reverse Progression of Huntington’s Disease

Huntington’s disease (HD) is a serious inherited disorder that results in degeneration of the part of the brain that controls movement. As the deterioration progresses, movements become uncontrollable, affecting all parts of the body. Other symptoms often include mood or behavior changes and progressive dementia. To date, conventional medications have failed to slow the progression of HD, the onset of which occurs between the ages of 20 and 50. The disease is always fatal, with an average life span of about 15 years after diagnosis. This new study may give hope to those suffering from such a devastating disease.

Seventeen people with HD were given either a placebo or 8 capsules a day of a supplement that contained (per capsule) 70 mg of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), 35 mg of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), 20 mg of docosohexaenoic acid (DHA), 50 mg of lipoic acid, and 30 mg of vitamin E. GLA, EPA, and DHA are found in relatively high amounts in the brain and are believed to play a role in controlling movement. Lipoic acid and vitamin E are antioxidants that may help reduce further degeneration in the brain. After an average of 19 months, most of the participants taking the EFA mix were better able to control their movements and demonstrated improvements in behavior and memory compared with those taking the placebo.

The results of this study corroborate findings from other animal and human studies in which similar amounts of EFAs were used. Two of the people from earlier studies have now been treated for more than 6 years and 3.5 years, respectively; these individuals have shown consistent improvement in their symptoms and have managed to live independently. Whether this treatment regimen will keep their disease from progressing in the future remains to be seen.

Despite the fact that not every person taking EFAs improved, the results are promising, considering that the typical person with Huntington's disease experiences relentless downhill progression. In contrast to the improvement seen in most of the participants taking EFAs, nearly all of those taking the placebo either deteriorated or had no change in their symptoms. Given the gravity of this condition, minor improvements or even keeping symptoms from worsening may have a significant impact on the course of the disease and ultimately on improving the quality of life.

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Darin Ingels, ND, MT (ASCP), received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Dr. Ingels is the author of The Natural Pharmacist: Lowering Cholesterol (Prima, 1999) and Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol (Prima, 2000). He currently is in private practice at New England Family Health Associates located in Southport, CT, where he specializes in environmental medicine and allergies. Dr. Ingels is a regular contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.

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The health information contained in this site is not intended as medical advice and should not be considered a substitute for appropriate medical care. Any products mentioned in studies cited in Healthnotes articles are not necessarily endorsed by Bastyr. As with any product, consult with a natural health practitioner to discuss what may be best for you.


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