July 11, 2012

Nutrient Mixture Boosts Memory For Early Alzheimer’s Patients

Connie K. Ho for - Your Universe Online

Forgetfulness. Language problems. These are just a few symptoms of Alzheimer´s. With the Baby Boomers growing older, more resources are spent on developing resources for those diagnosed with Alzheimer´s. Recently, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) revealed that, through clinical trials, they have discovered a nutrient mixture that can boost memory in patients who are diagnosed with early Alzheimer´s.

The study by the MIT scientists showed that the nutrient mixture, called Souvenaid, could improve connections between brain cells. The results also confirmed an earlier trial of the nutritional supplement. This information is beneficial as those with Alzheimer´s slowly lose the connections between brain cells, otherwise known as synapses. This can cause memory loss and other cognitive impairments. According to researchers, the supplement mixture can cause the growth of new synapses and the findings are published in the July 10 online edition of the Journal of Alzheimer´s Disease.

“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,” explained Richard Wurtman, the Cecil H. Green Distinguished Professor Emeritus at MIT who created the nutrient supplement, in a prepared statement.

In designing the mixture, Wurtman combined choline, uridine, and the omega-3 fatty acid DHA. These are three naturally occurring dietary compounds and are found in different sources such as eggs, fish, flaxseed, and the meat of grass-fed animals. Produced by the liver and kidney, uridine is found in some foods as a part of RNA. As well, the various nutrients are known to be precursors to lipid molecules and form the brain-cell membranes, which later create synapses. Choline, uridine, and DHA need to be administered together to be effective.

The current study, led by Philip Sheltsens of the Alzheimer Center at the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, was conducted in various European countries over six months. 295 patients who demonstrated symptoms of early Alzheimer´s took either Souvenaid or a placebo and boosted their verbal-memory performance for the initial three months.  However, the patients in the placebo group started to deteriorate in their performance after the first three months while those consuming Souvenaid continued to improve in their performance.

In this particular trial, the researchers utilized comprehensive memory tests from the neuropsychological test pattern to measure the Alzheimer´s patient´s progress. They also measured patients´ brain-activity patterns with an electroencephalography (EEG). Throughout the trial, the researchers found that patients who consumed Souvenaid had brain patterns that were at first similar to dementia then moved to more normal patterns.

The researchers believe that the findings are also important because few other clinical trials have shown consistent improvement in Alzheimer´s patient. They state that the drink could possibly be used in helping to diagnose those with Alzheimer´s, even before symptoms appear. Currently, test for Alzheimer´s are rarely done, as there are not many effective Alzheimer´s treatments available.

“Memory loss is the central characteristic of Alzheimer´s, so something that improves memory would be of great interest,” commented Jeffrey Cummings, director of the Cleveland Clinic´s Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, in the statement.

Past studies have looked at various factors of Alzheimer´s. Researchers began examining the possibility of combating Alzheimer´s through targeting synapse loss approximately 10 years ago. Wurtman utilized animal studies to demonstrate how the mixture could boost the amount of minuscule outcroppings of neural membranes, known as dendritic spines, in brain cells. The spines are needed to help produce new synapses to connect neurons. A second study done in 2008 included 225 patients with mild Alzheimer´s. The subjects consumed Souvenaird or a control beverage daily during a three-month period. By the end of the study period, researchers saw that patients who had consumed Souvenaid had boosted their verbal memory while only 24 percent of the control group improved their memory performance.

Nutricia, the company conducting studies of Souvenaid, has not released plans for commercial release of the supplement. Nutricia is under the health care division of food company Danone, otherwise known as Dannon in the United States.