Diet supplements Alzheimers

Nutrient cocktail for early Alzheimer's passes second trial

September, 2012
  • A second controlled trial of the nutrient cocktail Souvenaid has confirmed its cognitive benefits for those in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.

Two years ago, I reported on a clinical trial of a nutrient cocktail called Souvenaid for those with early Alzheimer’s. The three-month trial, involving 225 patients, had some success in improving verbal recall, with those with the mildest level of impairment benefiting the most.

The ‘cocktail’, designed by a MIT professor of brain and cognitive science, includes choline, uridine and the omega-3 fatty acid DHA. Earlier research indicated that these nutrients — precursors to the lipid molecules that help make up neural membranes — need to be administered together to be effective. In animal studies, the cocktail increased the number of dendritic spines, which are reduced in Alzheimer’s disease.

A further trial of the supplement has now been reported on. This randomized, controlled double-blind study followed 259 patients with early Alzheimer’s for six months. The placebo group was given an iso-caloric control product. Compliance was high (around 97%), and no serious side effects occurred.

During the first three months, all patients improved their verbal memory performance, but after that those on placebo began to deteriorate, while those on Souvenaid continued to improve. Their performance at the end of the trial was significantly better than that of the placebo group. Moreover, brain scans showed that their brains began to show more normal activity patterns, consistent with the regaining of greater synaptic function.

Because the supplement only seems to be effective for those in the early stages (in this study, participants averaged around 25 on a scale of dementia that ranges from 1 to 30, with 30 being normal), a two-year trial is now underway with patients with MCI.

Reference: 

Scheltens, P. et al. 2012. Efficacy of Souvenaid in Mild Alzheimer’s Disease: Results from a Randomized, Controlled Trial. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 31 (1), 225-36.

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DHA improves memory in older adults with cognitive impairment

December, 2010

A largish clinical study of cognitively impaired older adults has found six months of DHA supplements improved visual and verbal learning, though not working memory.

There have been mixed findings about the benefits of DHA (an omega-3 fatty acid), but in a study involving 485 older adults (55+) with age-related cognitive impairment, those randomly assigned to take DHA for six months improved the score on a visuospatial learning and episodic memory test. Higher levels of DHA in the blood correlated with better scores on the paired associate learning task. DHA supplementation was also associated with better verbal recognition, but not better working memory or executive function.

Other research has found no benefit from DHA to those already with Alzheimer’s, although those with Alzheimer’s tend to have lower levels of DHA in the blood. These findings reinforce the idea that the benefit of many proactive lifestyle strategies, such as diet and exercise, may depend mainly on their use before systems deteriorate.

The daily dose of algal DHA was 900 mg. The study took place at 19 clinical sites in the U.S., and those involved had an MMSE score greater than 26.

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Vitamin B supplements could delay onset of Alzheimer's

September, 2010
  • Vitamin B supplements markedly reduced brain atrophy in older adults with MCI, offering hope that they may be effective in delaying the development of Alzheimer’s.

A two-year study involving 271 older adults (70+) with mild cognitive impairment has found that the rate of brain atrophy in those taking folic acid (0.8 mg/d), vitamin B12 (0.5 mg/d) and vitamin B6 (20 mg/d), was significantly slower than in those taking a placebo, with those taking the supplements experiencing on average 30% less brain atrophy. Higher rates of atrophy were associated with lower cognitive performance. Moreover those who with the highest levels of homocysteine at the beginning of the trial benefited the most, with 50% less brain shrinkage. High levels of homocysteine are a risk factor for Alzheimer’s, and folate, B12 and B6 help regulate it.

The finding that atrophy can be slowed in those with MCI offers hope that the treatment could delay the development of Alzheimer’s, since MCI is a major risk factor for Alzheimer’s, and faster brain atrophy is typical of those who go on to develop Alzheimer’s.

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Dietary supplements offer new hope for Alzheimer's patients

April, 2006

A "cocktail" of dietary supplements (omega-3 fatty acids, uridine and choline) has been found to dramatically increase the amount of membranes that form brain cell synapses in gerbils. The treatment is now in human clinical trials. It is hoped that such treatment may significantly delay Alzheimer's disease. The treatment offers a different approach from the traditional tactic of targeting amyloid plaques and tangles. Choline can be found in meats, nuts and eggs, and omega-3 fatty acids are found in a variety of sources, including fish, eggs, flaxseed and meat from grass-fed animals. Uridine, which is found in RNA and produced by the liver and kidney, is not obtained from the diet, although it is found in human breast milk.

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