New prescription shake may help Alzheimer's patients

Imagine slowly losing the sense of who you are and not being able to stop it.

Millions of people in the United States live with Alzheimer's disease or watch a loved one suffer from it.

Now, researchers are looking at a high-powered prescription shake to ease the symptoms.

At 93 years old, Teresa Alfonzo has seen and done a lot, but because of a devastating diagnosis 10 years ago, she is now fighting to keep her most precious possession -- her memories.

Rafael Alfonzo says, “We started noticing she couldn’t take care of herself.”

The Alfonzos are one of 35 million families dealing with the devastating effects of Alzheimer's disease. A few months ago, Teresa's ability to remember the most basic skills started to go. She could not even draw a clock.

That is when the Alfonzos decided to try something new. Teresa started on Axona -- a medical shake regulated by the FDA.

Dr. Susan Steen, President at South Tampa Memory Center, says, "They mix it with usually a high protein drink, usually a milkshake or boost, and they drink it right after breakfast."

Alzheimer's patients lose the ability to use glucose in the blood. Two hours after drinking Axona, it is converted into ketone bodies that circulate to the brain and produce energy.

Dr. Richard S. Isaacson says, "Ketone bodies are the only things aside from sugar your brain can use as food

In a 90 day, double blind study of 152 Alzheimer's patients, 77 took Axona. Forty five percent of them showed signs of improvement after 45 days. While it does not work for everyone, Dr. Richard Isaacson says it is worth a shot.

"You have at least a 40 to 45 percent chance of having this medical food work, in my opinion, 40 percent is a lot higher than zero."

Axona is a prescription medical food.

The FDA does not approve medical foods, but they do regulate them.

It costs $70 to $90 for a thirty day supply.

Dr. Isaacson says a genetic test can actually help figure out if Axona will work on patients.

Axona's website says the side effects include mild stomach aches and diarrhea.


BACKGROUND: Dementia is a loss of brain function that occurs with certain diseases. Alzheimer's disease (AD) is one form of dementia that gradually gets worse over time. It affects memory, thinking, and behavior. Memory impairment, as well as problems with language, decision-making ability, judgment, and personality, are necessary features for the diagnosis. The cause of AD is not entirely known but is thought to include both genetic and environmental factors. Dementia symptoms include difficulty with many areas of mental function, including:
• Language
• Memory
• Perception
• Emotional behavior or personality
• Cognitive skills (such as calculation, abstract thinking, or judgment)
Dementia usually first appears as forgetfulness.

THE BRAIN: Glucose is the primary source of energy for the brain. Alzheimer's disease (AD) patients exhibit a decline in the ability to metabolize glucose in the brain. Inadequate glucose leads to damage resulting in impaired memory and cognition and brain shrinkage. These metabolic defects in the brain often appear 10 to 20 years earlier than other Alzheimer's symptoms.

THE MIRACLE SHAKE: Axona is a prescription medical food intended for the clinical dietary management of the metabolic processes associated with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease. The human brain relies almost exclusively on glucose as a source of energy. Axona is converted by the liver into ketone bodies, which provide an efficient alternative fuel for brain cells. Ketone bodies are naturally-occurring compounds that are produced mainly by the liver from fatty acids during periods of extended fasting. Ketone bodies have been shown to protect neurons. (SOURCE:

RESULTS: A small study, funded by the manufacturers of the product, found that memory and cognition improved for people with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease. However, more studies are needed to determine its safety and effectiveness. The Food and Drug Administration doesn't approve medical foods, nor does it test medical foods for safety or effectiveness. (SOURCE: Mayo Clinic)

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