As caregivers to a person or a loved one with Huntington's Disease or Juvenile Huntington's Disease the concern of calorie intake seems universal and is a daily worry. We are constantly reading and getting ideas from other caregivers on how to be sure we are giving the proper nutrition to those who rely on us. Another concern is that many in the HD community suffer from sleep disorders, but a new study has shown they may be related and could also be treated without the use of prescription drugs.
The study, conducted by the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, University of California - Los Angeles, which has been published in eNeuro has shown that strictly scheduled feeding times could improve the quality of life for those that suffer from neurodegenerative diseases for which there are no known cures, including Huntington's Disease.
Christopher Colwell, Phd., who participated in the study with research design as well as conducting experiments, and his colleagues, used a well-studied mouse line that models the genetic cause and symptoms of Huntington’s disease, including sleep disruptions that appear to be a general feature of neurodegenerative disorders. By restricting food availability to a 6-hour period in the middle of the period when the mice are active, the researchers demonstrate in these mice improved performance on two different motor tasks and a more typical rhythm of daily activity.
In addition, these mice showed improved heart rate variability, a marker of cardiovascular health, and more typical gene expression in the striatum, a brain region involved in motor control that is susceptible to degeneration in Huntington’s disease. This study, which manipulated ONLY the availability but NOT the quantity of food, point to time of feeding as an additional environmental signal that might work in conjunction with light to regulate the body clock. It is a significant statement to say that lifestyle changes, in the absence of a treatment or cure, that not only improve the quality of life but also delay disease progression for HD patients are greatly needed.