A nutritional drink manufactured by an Irish firm has been found to be effective in stopping the shrinkage of the brain, raising hopes that neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's can be better managed.
Created by Nutricia Advanced Medical Nutrition, Souvenaid — more commonly referred to as Fortasyn Connect — is a concoction of nutrients and vitamins which have been shown to enhance brain function.
The over-the-counter drink has been on sale in Britain since 2013, but its efficacy has never been individually tested.
Now, a clinical trial funded by the European Union revealed that over the course of two years, Souvenaid actually stopped the brain shrinkage of patients with Alzheimer's disease by 38 percent. The daily drink also improved memory in people with mild cognitive impairment, a risk factor of full-blown dementia.
"Today's clinical trial results have shown that the key is combining certain nutrients, in order to increase their effect," said Professor Tobias Hartmann, the coordinator of the project. "It shows that in the absence of effective drug options, we really have found something that can help slow down some of the most distressing symptoms in Alzheimer's disease."
However, Souvenaid had no overall cognitive benefit in patients with Alzheimer's, researchers said.
Led by scientists from the University of Eastern Finland, the research team examined more than 300 people who had initial symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. The patients, who had memory problems that were at that time not severe enough to be diagnosed as dementia, had their brains scanned during the two-year clinical study.
Half of the patients received a drink with Fortasyn Connect, which contained omega-3 fatty acids and high doses of Vitamin B13, B, C and E. The others received a control drink with the same calorie content as Fortasyn Connect but without the nutrients.
Although there was reduced brain shrinkage in the hippocampus, the brain area centered on emotions and memory, researchers did not find strong evidence that the drink could stop the patients' progression to full Alzheimer's.
Dr. James Pickett of Alzheimer's Society said the study was not considered a total success because there were no significant improvements in cognition.
Still, Pickett said the findings show that OTC nutritional drinks can indeed improve memory for people in the very early stages of Alzheimer's and provide relief to the most common symptoms.
Pickett said if early Alzheimer's is suspected, the nutritional drink is an option along with regular exercise, smoking cessation, and eating a healthy diet. But he added that if people are worried about their health and memory, they should visit their physicians first for advice.
The findings of the study were presented at the Springfield Symposium on Advances in Alzheimer Therapy in Athens.