A brain-boosting milkshake that is said to reduce symptoms of early Alzheimer's has gone on sale in the UK today. The drink contains a mix of ‘memory boosting’ nutrients including those found in breast milk and herring. The ‘medical food’ comes after a decade of research into a formula food that might improve the brain function of people in the early stages of the disease.
The makers of Souvenaid claim it can help reduce the symptoms of early Alzheimer's
Souvenaid, taken as a 125ml once-a-day drink, has ingredients that work together to boost brain cells important for memory. It contains omega 3 fatty acids, the nutrient found in fish, which is known to be good for the brain, with a daily dose equivalent to eating three or four herrings. The drink also contains two other compounds normally present in the blood - uridine, which is produced by the liver and kidneys and found in breast milk, and choline found in meat, nuts and eggs - B vitamins and other nutrients.
It will be available over-the-counter in pharmacies and online at £3.49 for a daily dose - adding up to almost £1,300 a year - and consumers have to confirm they have consulted a doctor or other health professional. Studies originally carried out by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggest it helps improve memory performance after six months in people with mild Alzheimer’s who are not taking drugs. However, a study on people with moderate Alzheimer’s who were on prescribed medication found no improvement.
Some have welcomed Souvenaid for providing a new dietary aid to improve the health of early Alzheimer’s patients, but critics warned it was an expensive option that was less effective than drugs. Around 800,000 people in the UK live with dementia, of which Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form. The loss of connections in the brain called synapses which help relay information is one of the key features of early Alzheimer’s. The three main compounds in Souvenaid are needed by brain nerve cells to make phospholipids, the primary component of cell membranes that form synapses.
Dr David Wilkinson, Consultant in Old Age Psychiatry, said ‘Alzheimer’s disease is not part and parcel of aging but a serious and progressive disease of the brain which prevents us from being able to retain new memories. ‘As we age, our bodies become less efficient at processing essential nutrients, meaning that we need to increase our intake of food to absorb the same amount of nutrients in order to maintain a healthy body. In the same way, we need the right nutrients for our brains to keep them healthy. ‘Alzheimer’s disease sufferers often find it very difficult to get everything they need through diet alone and the nutritional intervention by the use of Souvenaid is a new area of research offering promising results for the management of early Alzheimer’s disease.’
The Alzheimer's Society has warned the milkshake 'is a lot less effective than current drugs available for people in the early stages of dementia'
Products marketed as food for special medical purposes do not have to go through the same EU regulatory process as drugs. But they have to prove they are ‘safe and beneficial and effective in meeting the particular nutritional requirements of the persons for whom they are intended’ and must be taken under medical supervision. People buying Souvenaid, which comes in two flavours vanilla and strawberry, are being urged to speak with a doctor, specialist nurse, dietitian or pharmacist first.
Professor Clive Ballard, director of research at the Alzheimer’s Society charity, said ‘People shouldn’t get excited that an off-the-shelf drink is going to transform the lives of people with dementia. ‘While past studies of this product have showed some benefits for memory, there is no evidence that it has an effect on other aspects of thinking or everyday life and there was also no benefit on other symptoms of dementia. ‘This is likely to cost about £1000 a year and is a lot less effective than current drugs available for people in the early stages of dementia. ‘For many older people with dementia where finances might be tight, people are probably much better off putting their money towards good quality care or taking part in exercise. ‘One in three people over 65 will develop dementia. It’s vital we continue to fund research into new treatments to enable people to live well with the condition.’
Barbara Stephens, chief executive of Dementia UK charity, said ‘A diagnosis of dementia is devastating both for those with the condition and their families and carers. ‘Early stage intervention is important for maximising choices and enabling people with dementia and their carers to lead healthier lives for longer.’ Souvenaid is made by Nutricia, the medical foods division of Danone Research.
Source: Daily Mail UK