Is this the solution to Alzheimer’s? Scientists believe a complex nutritional formula could hold the key to the devastating illness
- Nutrients found in trout and peppers may boost memories after 18 months
- These include lutein (L) and zeaxanthin (Z), which were made into a supplement
- Patients’ families have asked for access to the supplement after the study ended
- Alzheimer’s has no cure; current medications cause confusion and sedation
- Experts claim the study is too small and the results ‘highly unlikely to be true’
Hope has been raised for Alzheimer’s patients as scientists today claimed a complex nutritional formula could hold the key to the devastating illness.
Early trials have found a combination of nutrients stop patients with an advanced form of the disease from gradually being robbed of their memory.
Irish researchers tested the combination of lutein, meso-zeaxanthin, zeaxanthin and two separate fish oils for the 18-month-long trial of just 12 patients.
The formula, known by scientists as =[L+MZ+Z+DHA+EPA], already exists in the form of a supplement called Memory Health, which can be bought online.
Critics dismissed the small trial by University Hospital Waterford and the Nutrition Research Centre Ireland and warned the results are ‘highly unlikely to be true’.
The formula, known by scientists as =[L+MZ+Z+DHA+EPA], already exists in the form of a supplement called Memory Health, which can be bought online
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An estimated 850,000 people in the UK and five million in the US have dementia, of which Alzheimer’s is the most common form.
Professor Naveed Sattar, an expert in metabolic medicine at Glasgow University, said that any research into Alzheimer’s is welcomed.
WHAT IS THE FORMULA?
L = lutein
MZ = meso-zeaxanthin
Z = zeaxanthin
DHA = docosahexaenoic acid
EPA = eicosapentaenoic acid
But added: ‘This is too small a trial and lacks a placebo control so that its findings are highly unlikely to true. In fact I would place no reliance on these results.’
Robert Howard, a professor of old age psychiatry at University College London, also dismissed the research.
He said: ‘Sadly, people with dementia and their carers will grasp at any straw and I would worry about naive or deeply cynical attempts to exploit this.
‘This report is sadly not much more than low-grade anecdotal evidence. Certainly, it falls seriously short of the standards of a high-quality trial.’
The Alzheimer’s Society today called for more convincing evidence before claims are made that the supplements could help Alzheimer’s patients.
An estimated 850,000 people in the UK and five million in the US have dementia, of which Alzheimer’s is the most common form (stock)
ALZHEIMER’S PATIENT HAS SEEN HER MEMORY IMPROVE 18 MONTHS AFTER TAKING THE SUPPLEMENT
Jacinta Malone with her husband Michael
An Alzheimer’s patient has seen her memory improve 18 months after taking the xanthophyll carotenoid-fish oil supplement her family affectionately call ‘the bullet’.
Jacinta Malone, a former nurse, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at just 64 years old and started taking the supplement from the outset.
Her husband and carer Michael, from County Kilkenny, Ireland, said: ‘We were happy to be given the opportunity to participate in the trial of this new supplement.
‘Whilst it is difficult to identify which elements of Jacinta’s medication plan are having the greatest impact, we definitely feel the supplement is a positive thing. It is encouraging for sure.
‘We would happily advise families in a similar situation to consider this option.’
Mrs Malone, now 68, is set to continue taking the supplement as part of her medication regimen.
Lead author Professor John Nolan, from the Nutrition Research Centre Ireland, said: ‘This is a major breakthrough in the management of Alzheimer’s Disease.
‘Not only do we have testament that the supplement is working for the Malone family, but our research findings are statistically significant.’
How was the study carried out?
Researchers gave 12 patients with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s a daily supplement containing xanthophyll carotenoid, a pigment found in peaches and papayas.
WHAT IS ALZHEIMER’S?
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative disease of the brain, in which build-up of abnormal proteins causes nerve cells to die.
This disrupts the transmitters that carry messages, and causes the brain to shrink.
More than 5 million people suffer from the disease in the US, where it is the 6th leading cause of death.
As brain cells die, the functions they provide are lost.
That includes memory, orientation and the ability to think and reason.
The progress of the disease is slow and gradual.
On average, patients live five to seven years after diagnosis, but some may live for ten to 15 years.
- Loss of short-term memory
- Behavioral changes
- Mood swings
- Difficulties dealing with money or making a phone call
- Severe memory loss, forgetting close family members, familiar objects or places
- Becoming anxious and frustrated over inability to make sense of the world, leading to aggressive behavior
- Eventually lose ability to walk
- May have problems eating
- The majority will eventually need 24-hour care
Source: Alzheimer’s Association
Xanthophyll carotenoid is made up of lutein, meso-zeaxanthin and zeaxanthin, which make up the L, MZ and Z part of the researchers’ formula.
Thirteen patients with moderate-to-severe dementia were given the same nutrients in a different supplement, which also contained fish oils DHA and EPA.
All of the patients were followed for 18 months for the study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
A further 15 people without Alzheimer’s were given just xanthophyll carotenoid and were monitored for six months.
What did the study find?
Results suggested that combining xanthophyll carotenoid with fish oils significantly reduces the progression of Alzheimer’s.
Carers of those taking the =[L+MZ+Z+DHA+EPA] supplement reported their patients’ memories, sight and moods improved.
Since the study ended, families and carers of patients on the supplement have asked for continued access to the nutritional supplement.
The researchers, led by Professor John Nolan, claimed the patients are ‘adamant it has had a very positive impact’.
Dr Alan Howard, a respected Cambridge University academic and founder of The Howard Trust, which funded the study, welcomed the results.
He said: ‘This represents one of the most important medical advancements of the century.
‘Alzheimer’s is the largest public health crisis the UK has ever faced, and drug companies have so far fallen at every hurdle in finding a solution.
‘This study gives us that breakthrough, in a unique natural compound of nutrients.’
Professor Riona Mulcahy, from University Hospital Waterford, hailed the findings as a ‘very exciting development’.
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