Nutrient cocktail slows Alzheimers

January 26, 2010

     Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cecil H. Green Distinguished Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences Richard Wurtman, MD and his colleagues report that a combination of the B vitamin Choline, the fish oil omega-3 fatty acid DHA and the amino acid Uridine, all of which are present in breast milk, improves the memory of men and women with early Alzheimer’s disease. Dr Wurtman believes that the nutrients work by stimulating the growth of connections between (neuron) brain cells that are reduced in Alzheimer’s disease.
     Earlier research conducted by Dr Wurtman revealed that Choline, DHA and Uridine increase the number of dendritic spines that connect neurons to form synapses; synapse allow communication between brain cells. "If you can increase the number of synapses by enhancing their production, you might to some extent avoid that loss of cognitive ability," he explained.
     In a double-blinded trial, 225 Alzheimer’s disease patients were randomized to receive a daily cocktail of DHA, Choline and Uridine plus B vitamins, phospholipids and antioxidants, or a placebo beverage for 12 weeks. At the trial’s conclusion, 40 percent of the patients who received the nutrient cocktail experienced significant improvements in a delayed verbal recall test compared to 24 percent of those who received the placebo. Patients with mild Alzheimer’s disease showed the greatest improvement. The nutrient combination is additionally being tested in three ongoing trials in Europe and the US. The researchers believe that the nutrients may be of value to individuals challenged by other disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease. "There are a lot of diseases associated with synapse deficiency," Dr Wurtman noted. The study is published in the latest issue of the journal Alzheimer's and Dementia.