The study, conducted in Europe, found that the nutrient cocktail Souvenaid can improve memory in these patients. The results of the clinical trial will be published online July 10 in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.
Over time Alzheimer's patients lose the connections between brain cells (synapses). This causes memory loss in addition to other cognitive impairments. According to Richard Wurtman, a professor emeritus of brain and cognitive sciences at MIT who invented Souvenaid, explained that the supplement mixture seems to stimulate growth of new synapses.
Wurtman said: "You want to improve the numbers of synapses, not by slowing their degradation - though of course you'd love to do that too - but rather by increasing the formation of the synapses."
Wurtman developed Souvenaid by combining three naturally occurring dietary compounds:
- DHA an omega-3 fatty acid - found in fish, eggs, flaxseed and meat from grass-fed animals
- Choline - found in eggs, meats, and nuts
- Uridine - produced by the liver and kidney and is present in some foods as a component of RNA
In animal studies, Wurtman found that Souvenaid increased the number of dendritic spines, or small outcroppings of neural membranes, found in brain cells. These spines are vital in order for synapses to form between neurons.
Philip Scheltens, director of the Alzheimer Center at VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, conducted a clinical trial in Europe involving 225 participants with mild Alzheimer's. The participants were assigned to either drink Souvenaid or a placebo beverage daily for three months.
The researchers found that verbal-memory improved in 40% of patients who consumed Souvenaid vs. 24% of patients who drank the placebo beverage.
The latest study, also led by Scheltens, involved 259 patients from several European countries. Participants were followed for six months.
The researchers found that although verbal-memory performance improved in the first three months for both patients taking Souveniad and patients taking a placebo, verbal-memory deteriorated during the following three months in those taking placebo, while memory continued to improve in those taking Souvenaid.
Throughout the study period, the team measured patient's brain-activity patterns using electroencephalography (EEG), and found that patterns among patients consuming Souvenaid started to shift from typical patterns of dementia to more normal patterns.
According to Wurtman, earlier studies showed that Souvenaid is not effective in patients with Alzheimer's at a more advanced stage. He explains that is because these patients have probably already lost several neurons, so they are unable to generate new synapses.
According to the researchers 97% of the study participants stuck to the regimen for the entire six months, and no serious adverse effects were observed.
Written by Grace Rattue