There’s a new claim among medical research published this week. That the brain regrows vital neuronal connections after a person in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease sips a daily nutrient drink. Some research has suggested that cognitive decline slows down or at least that those taking a placebo were worse off. Does this place the prevention of Alzheimers in our lifetime? Could this dietary drink really be the source of hope?
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia in Australia, accounting for about two thirds of cases. The brain degeneration that occurs in Alzheimer’s disease affects memory, thinking skills, emotions, behaviour and mood.
It is predicted that there is 320,000 people affected by Alzheimers in Australia, and more than 5 million people in the United States alone. With an ageing population, that number is expected to rise.
Progressive cognitive decline, the main sign of Alzheimer’s disease, is caused by the death of cells in the brain. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s, but lifestyle interventions such as exercise and a healthy diet have been spoken of by researchers in recent times as worthy improvers of circumstance.
The Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2017 presented research that showed certain types of brain training, and physical exercise may protect the brain from neurodegeneration. It has also been noted that diet is a significant risk factor.
There has been significant discussion this week following a research report’s release, that a nutritional intervention, to be taken once a day as a nutritional drink may be an easier preventive path.
The drink, called Souvenaid, is getting mixed discussion. It was originally developed by Prof. Richard Wurtman from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge. The formula is now owned by Nutricia — a part of Dannon.
The formula which is available in a restricted manner in Australia and the United Kingdom but not in the US at this time. It is said to be “for the dietary management of early Alzheimer’s disease,” according to the marketing materials.
Professor Wurtman has commented on the formula previously saying, “If you can increase the number of [connections …], you might to some extent avoid that loss of cognitive ability.”
MIT News hailed the results of a clinical trial this week, saying “MIT research laid groundwork for promising Alzheimer’s-fighting drink.”
The article by MIT shared the feedback that patients with prodromal Alzheimer’s — the predementia stage of Alzheimer’s with mild symptoms — were given either Souvenaid or a placebo. Compared to people who drank the placebo, patients who drank Souvenaid throughout the trial showed less worsening in everyday cognitive and functional performance and significantly less atrophy of the hippocampus, which is caused early in Alzheimer’s by brain tissue loss.
“It feels like science-fiction, where you can take a drink of Souvenaid and you get more synapses … for improved cognitive function,” Wurtman says. “But it works.”
Would you consider a prevention treatment to stave off Alzheimers if you were found to have very early symptoms?