Our research team examined evidence on the nutritional drink Souvenaid, that was claimed to help improve some aspects of memory in people who have mild cognitive impairment.
Why is Souvenaid in the news?
In recent years, news outlets have reported on a nutritional, liquid dietary supplement called Souvenaid that claimed to 'stop the brain from shrinking' and 'slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.' This news coverage followed publications of the results of a trial known as ‘LipiDiDiet’.
Researchers followed a group of people who drank Souvenaid daily. They then compared their memory and thinking skills and changes to their brains with a group of people who drank a dummy drink.
People involved in the trial all had mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which is a condition where someone has mild memory problems that are not severe enough for them to be diagnosed with dementia.
Results to date have been mixed. After two years the trial failed to show a slowing in decline of thinking and memory skills in people with mild cognitive impairment. After three years, in a very small group of people who continued on in the trial, showed some encouraging signs of slowing the decline in memory and thinking skills.
From these results published so far, we cannot be sure whether Souvenaid provides a benefit for people with mild cognitive impairment.
People who are worried about their memory should not rush out and buy this drink but arrange to speak to your doctor. They can assess your memory and offer advice and support.
The results of this trial suggest further investigation may be warranted, but we will need to see the effects of the drink assessed in much larger groups of people with mild cognitive impairment before we will know if it might have a real benefit.
What is the Souvenaid drink made from?
Souvenaid is a medical drink containing an active ingredient called Fortasyn Connect. This is a combination of fatty acids, vitamins and other nutrients. It was developed with the aim of preventing the loss of important connections between brain cells that occurs in Alzheimer’s disease.
Whilst this effect on brain cells has been shown in some animal studies, it has not yet been confirmed that the drink has the same effect in people.
The drink is approved as a food for medical purposes for people in the earlier stages of the condition.
As it is a medical drink, it should not be purchased without first consulting your doctor or memory clinic about whether it is right for you.
What happened in the trial and what were the results?
The study involved 311 people who had mild cognitive impairment. They had tests, such as brain scans or spinal taps (also known as lumbar punctures), to show that their memory problems were most likely due to the very early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
Half of the people on the trial took the drink containing Fortasyn Connect once a day for two years. The other half took a drink with the same calorie content but without the active ingredient.
After two years the researchers analysed the results and there was no difference in the number of people who progressed from mild cognitive impairment to dementia.
There was also no difference in scores in a specific series of memory and thinking tests. Brain scans from the trial did however show that the people who took Souvenaid had less shrinkage in certain areas of their brain, including in the hippocampus, which is involved in memory.
A small number of people continued on in the trial for an additional year. Results from this small group showed a slowing in decline of thinking and memory skills and again less shrinkage in certain areas of the brain, in the group who took Souvenaid compared to the dummy drink.
What do these trial results mean?
From the results published so far, we cannot say that the drink is able to prevent cognitive decline in those with mild cognitive impairment due to the very early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
Results after three years, although more encouraging were in a small group of people (approximately 80) with mild cognitive impairment. Before we can be sure if there is a benefit from drinking Souvenaid, we will need to see it tested rigorously in a much larger group of people.
Although the results of this investigation are not clear, there are steps we can all take to reduce our risk of dementia such as keeping physically active, not smoking or drinking excessively and eating a healthy balanced diet. It’s never too late to start.
What does Alzheimer's Society think?
Commenting on results published in 2020, Hannah Churchill Research Communications Manager, said:
'Although this nutritional drink is unlikely to have a negative impact, the latest results from this study must be considered in context.
'New results show less cognitive decline in a small number of people with mild memory problems who consumed the drink daily for three years.
Although this is good news and warrants further investigation, a more expansive study with more people must be conducted before we can be sure benefits of this drink are proven.
'Rather than rushing out to buy this product to combat memory problems or worrying symptoms, we would urge that anyone who is concerned about their memory to speak with their GP in the first instance.
'There are steps we can all take to reduce our risk of dementia and it’s never too late to start. Keeping physically active, eating a well-balanced diet and looking after your overall health are key.'
Worried about memory problems?
Everybody forgets things from time to time. But if you or other people are noticing that memory problems are getting worse, or affecting everyday life, we are here to support you.
This post was updated and republished in November 2020.