multiple sclerosis

  1. Big Pharma pushes scary drug for cognitive problems [YIKES!]

    It’s the kind of bird-brained scheme Wile E. Coyote might come up with.

    Just disguise some bird poison as an important and life-changing medicine… filled with hope and promise…

    And wait for Road Runner come along and eat it up.

    MEEP! MEEP!

    In the cartoons, you know the Road Runner’s never really fooled…

    But out in the real world, the wily drug industry too often gets the last laugh.

    And they’re trying to do it right now in a way that would make that ol’ coyote proud.

    Because it involves disguising ACTUAL bird poison as medicine.

    If you’re not careful, they could try to feed it to YOU!

    Because they might not stop with patients with multiple sclerosis, who are currently in the crosshairs.

    That’s why today I’m here to turn you into a sharp-witted Road Runner, never fooled by their nonsense.

    How BIRD POISON became a ‘drug’

    For years, a chemical sold under the brand name Avitrol was used to control “bird problems.” Still is -- you can look it up.

    Kills humans, too, if you feed ’em enough.

    But at some point, the drug companies found that lower doses of it AREN’T deadly.

    Gotta wonder how they convinced people to be the first to test THAT theory out!

    Since then, they’ve been selling it as a potassium channel-blocking drug, 4-Aminopyridine.

    First, it was to help people with multiple sclerosis walk a little better…

    Now they say it can help stop cognitive struggles in these folks, too.

    Yep. Say anything to make a sale, right?

    The results aren’t nothin’, but they’re not exactly impressive either.

    Folks with MS given the drug twice a day for 12 weeks improved by almost 10 points on a common test of cognitive abilities. Compare that to folks given a placebo, who improved by 5.1 points.

    But even if it had worked BETTER than that… holy moly, just check out the side effects.

    There are the usual ones that nearly ANY drug can cause -- like headache, dizziness, insomnia, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, etc.

    But THIS drug can also give you some weird ones like balance problems and tingling sensations… horrible ones like burning pain during urination… and some downright frightening ones like seizures and MS relapse.

    Oh, and definitely don’t let your birds near it.

    Of course, now that they found it might improve cognition in MS patients, I worry they will next “discover” it can help with cognition in everyone else, too!

    Next thing you know, they’ll be leaving piles of it out on the sidewalk in front of the senior center.

    MEEP! MEEP!

    Whether you have MS… or cognitive struggles from any other cause, including ordinary aging… you’ve got LOTS of better options.

    For starters, there’s time-tested and science-backed ginkgo -- which isn’t recommended NEARLY ENOUGH.

    Other great brain-boosters include citicoline, phosphatidylserine and Huperzine A, all of which can ENHANCE cognition without killing your birds… or you.

    In Your Corner,

    Dr. Allan Spreen

  2. MS patients break the rules and improve brain function

    If you have multiple sclerosis (MS), your neurologist probably gave you a list of rules to follow to keep your symptoms under control. But some MS patients have ignored conventional wisdom and broken one of the golden rules while keeping their symptoms at bay.

    Better yet, in MRI scans their brains appear virtually the same as healthy patients' without MS!

    So what's their secret?

    Believe it or not, aerobic exercise has made THE difference for this group of MS patients. Commenting on the new study, lead researcher Ruchika Shaurya Prakash stated: "For a long time, MS patients were told not to exercise, because there was a fear it could exacerbate their symptoms. But we're finding that, it can actually help them with their cognitive functions."

    MS patients peddle their way to healthy brain scans

    Scientists recruited 21 women diagnosed with the relapsing-remitting form of MS. It's the most common form of the disease, with symptoms that flair up and then go away for stretches of time. They also recruited 15 women without MS as their control group.

    To start, the scientists assessed the women's overall fitness level. The women rode stationary bikes as long and as fast as they could, while breathing into masks that measured how much oxygen they needed during the workout.

    Next, all women had MRI scans taken to examine their brains. In MS patients, MRI scans show areas of gray matter where nerve endings have been damaged. These lesions can cause significant symptoms in MS patients, such as difficulty controlling muscles and balance problems. They can also lead to serious cognitive problems, such as difficulty solving problems, remembering words, and processing new information.

    So, to assess their cognitive abilities, the participants each took a series of brain-teaser type tests. For example, in one test, the women had to write down as many words as they could think of beginning with the letter "F" in one minute, which is typically very challenging for an MS patient.

    As you might expect, the MS patients as a group didn't perform quite as well on the cognitive tests as the non-MS patients. And their brains did show areas of damage in the MRI scans.

    However, when the scientists factored in the fitness levels of the MS patients, they found a striking difference.

    Fit MS patients perform better on tests than MS patients without a good level of fitness

    First off, the brain scans of the fit MS patients showed much less damage from the disease. They had fewer brain lesions. And those lesions were much smaller than the non-fit MS patients' were.

    In fact, the lead researcher for the study said that the gray matter volume in the fittest MS patients looked nearly the same as the non-MS patients! And that's really important, because scientists link the gray matter with how fast the brain processes information.

    And, boy, did it show in the cognitive tests...

    In fact, the fit MS patients scored far better on the cognitive tests than MS patients with low fitness levels. Lead researcher Prakash believes that exercise is the key for MS patients because it stimulates the production of nerve growth factors (NGFs). These proteins boost the growth of healthy neurons in the brain. It may even prove true that NGFs can repair myelin sheaths. (In MS patients, their immune system misfires and attacks the myelin sheath, a protein that protects nerve endings.)

    Of course, scientists have already begun to experiment with other ways to boost NGFs in MS patients. Though that research will undoubtedly involve a drug...so I'd much rather see you stick with exercise.

    New hope for MS patients

    If you have MS and your neurologist has warned you against aerobic exercise, I'd show him this study. It was published in the March 2010 issue of the major medical journal Brain Research.

    You may also want to begin a new exercise program. But remember, the MS patients in the study with the best cognitive function had good aerobic fitness. So you'll have to choose an exercise that raises your heart rate and makes you break a sweat.

    Just start slowly and choose an exercise that's suited to your body. For example, exercising on a treadmill or elliptical machine isn't a great choice if you have balance problems. Instead, you can try a stationary bike, swimming, or a rowing machine. There are many options; just look at what's available and find out what works for you.

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