Nutritional drink shows mixed results in early Alzheimer’s trial

30 October 2017

Researchers investigating the effects of a commercially available nutritional drink, have found limited evidence of any benefit for people with very early memory and thinking problems.

Trials of the drink, known as Souvenaid, failed to show any reduction in the rate of overall memory and thinking decline but did point to potential improvements in other measures related to the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. The results of the 24-month trial are published today in The Lancet Neurology.

Diet is a modifiable risk factor for dementia and a healthy, nutritionally balanced diet has been linked with a lower risk of the condition. Souvenaid, which can be bought over the counter, contains ingredients including omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin E and selenium, and is designed to help people with Alzheimer’s manage their nutritional intake.

The new ‘LipiDiDiet’ trial involved 311 people with early memory and thinking problems not yet severe enough to be classified as dementia, but who had indicators on brain scans or in spinal fluid that they were in the very early stages of Alzheimer’s. Over two years volunteers drank either a daily 125ml serving of Souvenaid or a control drink with an equivalent number of calories.

At the end of the study, the researchers found that there was no difference in overall memory and thinking scores between the two groups, and no difference in the rate at which people went on to develop dementia. Though the trial didn’t meet its main aim, the study did show evidence that the drink led to improvements in a doctor’s assessments of symptoms and day-to-day function, and less shrinkage of an area of the brain called the hippocampus, which plays an important role in memory.

Dr David Reynolds, Chief Scientific Officer at Alzheimer’s Research UK said:

“While taking this drink won’t do people any harm, there is mixed evidence of possible benefits and this study did not reveal the effects on memory and thinking that the researchers were hoping to measure.

 “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.

“Although this, and previous studies of Souvenaid, have suggested some benefits for memory and brain function, these haven’t played out into consistent benefits for patients and it’s important to understand why. While studies of Souvenaid in people with mid-stage Alzheimer’s have been mixed, this study doesn’t show evidence that the drink slows the progression of the disease in those at the very early stages.

“Maintaining a healthy, nutritionally balanced diet can play an important role in keeping dementia risk as low as possible. Not smoking, keeping blood pressure and cholesterol in check, only drinking in moderation, and stay mentally and physically active can also help to maintain a healthy brain as we get older.

“If people are worried about their memory, or are considering buying and taking Souvenaid as a supplement to manage their diet then it is important that they discuss this with their GP.”