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Nutritional Supplements to Promote Brain Function

Clinician's Brief (Capsule)


February 2015

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This study evaluated whether administration of a nutraceutical compound (Aktivait, that contains n-acetylcysteine, co-enzyme Q10, L-carnitine, α-lipoic acid, vitamins C and E, and polyunsaturated fatty acids (DHA, EPA) would result in changes in CSF biomarkers in healthy adult beagles. Previous studies showed that CSF composition varies in disease states and may reflect changes in brain energy metabolism (BEM). It was hypothesized that nutraceutical use may mitigate a decline in cognitive dysfunction.

CSF and blood samples were obtained from 11 healthy beagles before and after 50 days of treatment with a veterinary nutraceutical marketed for sustaining optimum brain function. CSF analysis was performed including a total nucleated cell count, total protein, glucose, sodium, chloride, potassium, pyruvate and lactate concentrations, and lactate/pyruvate (L/P) ratio. CBC and serum chemistry were also evaluated. All values were within reference ranges before and after treatment. Significant increases in CSF sodium and glucose concentrations as well as decreases in lactate levels and L/P ratio were noted posttreatment. After treatment, serum sodium and chloride concentrations were significantly increased and creatinine concentration was significantly decreased. The CSF sodium and glucose increase, and the decrease in lactate and L/P ratio may be suggestive of an improvement in BEM secondary to nutraceutical administration, but further studies are necessary determine how this relates to BEM in canine cognitive dysfunction.


Studies of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in humans have found elevated CSF levels of lactate, pyruvate, and other nonspecific metabolic substrates, which are significantly associated with dementia severity. Significant increases in potassium, lactate, and pyruvate also have been reported in dogs with severe canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD). Some have hypothesized that dietary modification or supplementation can alter these metabolic markers, which may in turn reduce clinical signs.

A significant increase in CSF sodium and glucose and reduced L/P ratio was found in this study, demonstrating that feeding this particular nutraceutical altered certain CSF chemistries and potentially brain energy metabolism. The question remains, however, whether nutraceuticals cause similar changes in AD or CCD patients and whether this translates to a beneficial clinical effect.—Mark Troxel, DVM, DACVIM (Neurology)


For global readers, a calculator to convert laboratory values, dosages, and other measurements to SI units can be found here.

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