Alzheimer's: Mixed trial results for nutrient drink
31st October 2017 – There is limited evidence that a commercially available nutritional drink can help people who have very early memory and thinking problems, a study has concluded.
Trials of the drink, known as Souvenaid, did show it could help conserve brain tissue as well as help conserve memory, researchers say.
The study in the journal Lancet Neurology concludes that larger studies are needed to investigate whether the drink can slow progression of dementia.
Souvenaid is a medical drink containing an ingredient called Fortasyn Connect. This is a combination of fatty acids, vitamins and other nutrients.
It was developed with the aim of preventing the loss of important connections between brain cells that occur in people with Alzheimer's.
The manufacturer, Nutricia, says it is "clinically proven to improve memory in patients with early Alzheimer's disease".
The 1-a-day drink costs around £3.50 and the manufacturer says it should only be drunk if recommended by a healthcare professional.
'No significant effect'
The 2-year clinical trial involved 311 people in 4 European countries who had mild cognitive impairment. Participants were randomly assigned to either receive the nutritional drink or another drink with no added nutrients.
The researchers say there was insufficient evidence to show that Sovenaid led to memory and thinking improvements when they performed a standard clinical dementia test.
However, they note some improvements in another test to assess how well a patient can handle everyday tasks.
Furthermore, scans showed that those in the Sovenaid group had fewer signs of brain shrinkage including in the hippocampus, which is involved in memory.
The researchers say further research into whether nutritional drinks can delay the onset of dementia should involve more patients tracked over a longer period of time.
Several experts have commented in statements on the trial results. Dr Doug Brown, director of research at the Alzheimer's Society, says: "Although there was less cognitive decline in people taking the daily drink over 2 years, the same number of people still went on to develop dementia as those who had a fake drink every day. We certainly can't conclude that the drink slows progression of Alzheimer's disease."
Dr David Reynolds, chief scientific officer at Alzheimer’s Research UK, comments: "As this was a relatively small study, it is difficult to detect signs of a robust effect or to draw any firm conclusions from the results. Larger studies will need to investigate whether the effects of the drink are just too small to robustly measure or whether our tools for assessing benefits so early in the disease are not sensitive enough to properly determine its value."
Dr Elizabeth Coulthard, consultant senior lecturer in dementia neurology at the University of Bristol, says: "Results suggest that dietary supplementation with Fortasyn Connect appears to be safe and probably warrants further investigation. However, the data are not strong enough to advocate use of this dietary supplement.
"It is important that these results are not overblown because Fortasyn Connect can be bought in the form of Souvenaid and the cost is high. So, people may incur expense without really knowing if there is a benefit."