Time restricted feeding diet improves symptoms of mice with features of Huntington’s disease

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By Philip Tubby | Wednesday 03 January 2018

Researchers in the US have investigated whether a diet regime known as time restricted feeding could help prevent the onset of disease symptoms in mice with features of Huntington’s disease. Published in the scientific journal, eNeuro, the study suggests that restricting meal times to the same time each day improves sleep quality and muscle activity in mice.

Huntington’s disease is a challenging, progressive disease caused by a mutation in a single gene known as the huntingtin gene. Symptoms of the disease include dementia as well as involuntary muscle movement. Sleeping problems are also common in people living with Huntington’s disease, and can appear early in the course of the disease.

Scientists used mice that had been genetically modified to display Huntington’s symptoms including problems with muscle movement and changes in sleeping patterns.

Researchers split the six-month old mice into two treatment groups. The first group could consume as much food as they wanted at any time of the day. The second group of mice were restricted to a six-hour feeding time at the middle of the period when the mice were most active.

They found that after three months of this treatment, the nine-month-old mice whose diet was time restricted performed better in muscle activity tests and reduced the time it took the mice to transition between sleep and being awake. However, the results did not show that the mice whose feeding was restricted had more sleep overall.

Researchers also examined brain tissue from the mice and found that those who were given a time restricted diet had changes in a region called the striatum, one of the first areas of the brain to be damaged in people with Huntington’s disease.

Dr Carol Routledge, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“While this study found that time-restricted eating improved movement ability and sleep quality in mice with features of Huntington’s disease, we don’t know whether an equivalent diet regime could hold any benefits for people with the disease.

“The NHS recommends people with Huntington’s eat a high calorie diet and it is important that anyone living the disease speak to their doctor before making large changes to their eating habits. Huntington’s is an inherited, genetic condition and it is unlikely that any one diet or lifestyle change could transform the way it progresses in the brain.

“There is currently no drug that can cure or slow the development of Huntington’s in the brain, but research is making progress towards developing treatments for the future. To have the best chance of tackling diseases like Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s, researchers need to approach these diseases from many different angles and this is only possible if we continue to invest in research.”


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Philip Tubby