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Drink Your Way to Better Memory?

There is some promising news on the horizon, with regards to increasing memory function in individuals who are in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.  Researchers at MIT have discovered that a particular mixture of nutrients, when consumed in liquid form, actually stimulate production of new connections between brain cells.

One of the things that happens to the brain of someone with Alzheimer’s is that synapses, or connections between brain cells, are lost.  This produces memory loss and other cognitive difficulties.  But now, Richard Wurtman, a professor emeritus of brain and cognitive sciences at MIT, has invented a nutrient mixture known as Souvenaid.  This concoction actually appears to encourage the development of new synapses in the brain.

Souvenaid is made from a mixture of three naturally-occurring dietary compounds:   choline, uridine, and the omega-3 fatty acid DHA.  These substances are all precursors to the lipid molecules that make up brain-cell membranes, which form synapses when combined with specific proteins, and must be given in unison.  Interestingly, all three substances are normally found in breast milk.

A clinical trial was recently conducted in Europe, and reported last month in an online edition of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. However, Wurtman began studying how to reverse synapse loss in Alzheimer’s ten years ago.  Animal studies showed that the nutrient mixture increased the number of dendritic spines (small outcroppings of neural membranes), leading to the formation of synapses.

255 patients with mild Alzheimer’s drank either Souvenaid or a control substance, daily, for 12 weeks.  40% of those who drank the Souvenaid showed significant improvement in a test of verbal memory, the Weschler Memory Scale, as opposed to 24% of the control group.  However, there was no significant difference in the patients’ performance on another commonly-used test of cognitive functioning, the ADAS-cog test, which is a more generalized assessment that includes orientation and movement/spatial memory.  Additional research is on-going.

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