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Helping the brain use alternative fuel may ease symptoms of Alzheimer's

(BPT) - Whether a patient faces a simple health problem, such as a head cold, or one as complex as Alzheimer’s disease, relieving the symptoms is often as important as resolving the issue itself. Yet for the more than 5 million Americans affected by Alzheimer’s, treating the symptoms is even more vital.

Some of the early signs of Alzheimer’s include memory loss that disrupts daily life, mood and personality changes, and difficulty solving otherwise simple daily tasks.

Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Of the top 10 causes of death, it is the only one for which there is no cure or preventive measure. However, research suggests that addressing one early facet of the disease – decreased blood sugar in brain cells, also known as diminished cerebral glucose metabolism (DCGM) – may help relieve symptoms for certain people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s.

In a healthy brain, glucose is the primary energy source. A brain affected by Alzheimer’s doesn’t process glucose into energy as efficiently as a healthy brain.

“Unlike other cells in the body that can metabolize fats as fuel, brain cells rely on glucose (sugar) for their primary energy source,” says Dr. Richard S. Isaacson, associate professor of clinical neurology and vice chair of education at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine. "One aspect of Alzheimer’s is that it hinders the brain’s ability to use glucose, and this significantly affects brain function.”

“DCGM is an early feature of Alzheimer’s disease, represented by region-specific declines in brain glucose – or energy – metabolism,” Isaacson says. “DCGM correlates with both the cognitive decline and the pathology associated with Alzheimer’s. Research suggests that addressing DCGM may help mitigate symptoms for some patients.”

Providing brain cells with an alternative energy source may help ease the effects of DCGM, while enhancing memory and cognitive function in Alzheimer’s patients. One prescription-only medical food aims at helping Alzheimer’s patients by addressing DCGM – Axona by Accera, Inc.

The easy-to-mix, once-daily drink is currently the only prescription therapy for patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s that addresses the link between the brain’s inability to process and use glucose with the degenerative symptoms of Alzheimer’s by providing the brain with an alternative energy source. The liver digests and metabolizes Axona to produce the naturally occurring compounds – ketones– that the brain can use as an alternative energy source. Patients or caregivers mix the powder with other liquids or foods and take it once a day in conjunction with commonly prescribed Alzheimer’s medications.

“More research is necessary to determine the exact reasons why DCGM can have profound effects on cognition over the long term,” Isaacson says. “When blood glucose drops rapidly, significant decline in cognitive function occurs and may be accompanied by confusion, coma and even brain death.”

While Axona is not a cure for Alzheimer’s, it can help some patients mitigate the symptoms of the disease. Doctors and caregivers of patients using Axona have reported patients appear more alert and engaged in daily activities and conversations. “If you or a family member experience symptoms such as poor short-term memory, changes in behavior and difficulty with language, see your doctor for a full evaluation,” says Isaacson.

To learn more about Alzheimer’s disease, visit www.alz.org, the website of the Alzheimer’s Association. For more information on DCGM and Axona, visit www.about-axona.com.

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