Huntington’s Disease

1)  In 1973, A.G., referred to me (Abram Hoffer, MD,) by his physician, appeared with his wife in my office. They told me he was suffering from Huntington’s chorea. They knew much more about it than did I, for I had not previously seen any patient with HD, but I recalled from medical training that it was a disease for which there was no cure. They also knew HD was untreatable, and had minimal expectation of any major improvement, but they hoped that vitamin supplementation might slow the rate of deterioration.

There were brothers in the man’s family. Their father had Huntington’s and also an uncle (the father’s brother); both had died psychotic in mental hospitals. Of the five boys, two were normal, the eldest of the five was in a nursing home, bedridden and mentally deteriorated, and the youngest was even worse in a different nursing home (where he died a year later). The middle son, A.G., had been deteriorating steadily for about twenty years.

A.G. was born in 1913. When I first saw him, he had been ill since age forty. His illness began with increased nervousness, which had become worse over the previous year. His weight had been 165 pounds at age forty, but had decreased to 130 pounds when I saw him, due to loss of muscle tissue. He had become so weak that it required all his energy merely to survive: to eat, dress, and look after himself. He was tired all the time. A.G. had no perceptual changes, but his thinking was starting to deteriorate: he suffered from blocking (gaps or pauses in his flow of thought), his memory was faulty, and his concentration was poor. He was depressed, irritable, nervous, and tense. His walk was jerky, his muscles cramped often, and he stumbled a lot.

I agreed to supervise his vitamin supplementation, but it was understood that there must be no expectation of recovery on anyone’s part. A.G. was advised to continue his junk-free diet, but also to add to it ascorbic acid (1 g after each meal); a high-potency multivitamin preparation containing thiamine (100 mg), riboflavin (25 mg), pyridoxine (100 mg), niacinamide (200 mg), and ascorbic acid (500 mg) after each meal; and vitamin B12 (1,000 mcg per week).

One month later, he was less depressed, stronger, his concentration was better, and he had been able to work around his house for the first time in many years. I added niacin (1,000 mg after each meal), folic acid (5 mg twice per day), and some magnesium sulfate in solution for his muscle cramps. Two months later, he stated that if he felt as well for the rest of his life, even with further deterioration, he would be content. I doubled his niacin level and added vitamin E (400 IU twice per day). Six months later, he was the same but he had lost five pounds. Because of a history of severe sinusitis and excessive milk intake, I placed him on a two-week dairy-free program.

After seven months, he noted that he was more tired. He had felt no better on a dairy-free program and had resumed dairy product consumption. I concluded that there had been no real improvement, even though he felt better and was stronger. His progressive weight loss was ominous and indicated that his muscles were wasting as they had been doing for many years. I doubled his vitamin E to 800 IU twice a day. The following month, he gained two pounds and at month eleven of therapy he was at 135 pounds, the first time during his illness that weight loss was reversed. His muscles were regaining their size, tone, and power. All muscle tremors and cramps were gone. Both he and his wife felt the improvement coincided with the doubling of the dose of vitamin E. I again doubled the vitamin E, to 1,600 IU twice per day, and reduced niacin to 500 mg after each meal.

At thirteen months, his weight remained steady between 135 and 136 pounds. He had become so energetic that his caloric output kept his weight from increasing. Both he and his wife were pleased with his progress. He felt niacin caused nasal swelling, so this was discontinued and replaced by an equal amount of niacinamide. At twenty-two months, he discontinued the niacinamide to see if he still needed it. Within a few weeks, he became very restless and tense, and when he walked his legs stiffened, so he quickly went back to niacinamide and in a few days was well. When last seen nearly three years after treatment was started, he remained well.

2) In a second case, T.T. did not think she had Huntington’s, even though she knew she had a 50 percent chance of having received the gene from her mother. Her husband recovered from schizophrenia on orthomolecular treatment and her mother was ill with HD in a mental hospital in France. She had concluded that if vitamins could cure a disease as serious as schizophrenia, they might prevent the appearance of HD. She started to use a megadose vitamin approach in December 1978. She was taking the following vitamins: vitamin E (800 IU), niacin (2,500 mg), vitamin C (1,000 mg), and a multivitamin tablet. In 1981, she stated that she felt well. She had for the previous seven years been too tired to work as an engineer, but now was back at work. In addition, she had suffered perceptual illusions that kept her from driving, had a number of fears, and loss of memory. After one year on vitamins, these had all disappeared. This person is still well as of 2007.

T.T. had not been diagnosed as having HD, but she had the early symptoms and had also transmitted these genes to one or more of her daughters, who were later placed on vitamin treatment as well with good responses.

From: Hoffer A and Saul AW. Orthomolecular Medicine for Everyone. Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health Pub, 2008.