A milkshake-like drug to boost memory could be available for Alzheimer patients in the next two years.
The drink focuses on the connections that carry vital messages between brain cells. Damage to these connections, or synapses, is blamed for many of the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, including memory loss.
The milky 'cocktail' was tested in elderly men and women in US in the early stages of Alzheimer's.
Half were asked to take the drink with breakfast for three months and half were given a substitute drink which looked and tasted the same but lacked the key ingredients.
They were then given a battery of memory tests, including one in which they were questioned on details of a story around half an hour after being told it.
This type of short-term memory loss is typical of Alzheimer's.
Those taking Souvenaid, the new drug, were almost twice as likely to score better at the end than at the beginning of the three-month trial. The changes were apparent after only 12 weeks, providing 'compelling evidence' of the drink's potential, Alzheimer's & Dementia, the journal of the American Alzheimer's Association reports.
Overall, 40 per cent of those who had taken Souvenaid showed improvement, compared with 24 per cent given the dummy drink.
The key ingredients of the new drug are Omega-3 fatty acids, uridine and choline, all found in breast milk, apart from B vitamins and health-boosting antioxidants.
Dr. Richard Wurtman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, said: "This is something that has no toxicity, that gives you better function than you started with. If it works in the follow-up studies, it is very exciting."
In Britain, Rebecca Wood, chief executive of the Alzheimer's Research Trust, said: "It's very early days, but this study does suggest that this multinutrient drink is worthy of further investigation."