Can a milkshake really halt the symptoms of Alzheimer's?

Souvenaid is the result of 10 years of research, makers Nutricia say. Photo: Ben Birchall/PA Archive

Sounds too good to be true doesn't it? A simple nutritional drink taken once a day to help ward off Alzheimer's disease.

Well, I get emails promising potential treatments for Alzheimer's several times a day. Some are interesting scientific developments that are just too early in development to say. Others are just plain loony.

This drink, at first sight, looks promising. It's a cocktail of nutrients designed by scientists at MIT to encourage nerve cells in your brain to grow new junctions with other cells - called synapses. Some scientists think that might significantly delay the symptoms of Alzheimer's. And it's been tested in clinical trials that show it has "significant benefits" for people in the early stages of Alzheimer's.

So far sounds good. But just a minute. This is what Professor Clive Ballard, director of reseaerch at the Alzheimer's Society charity, has to say:

People shouldn't get excited that an off-the-shelf drink is going to transform the lives of people with dementia. While past studies of this product have showed some benefits for memory, there is no evidence that it has an effect on other aspects of thinking or everyday life and there was also no benefit on other symptoms of dementia.

He points out that Souvenaid (made by Danone) will cost about £1,000 a year and is "a lot less effective than current drugs".

Doesn't sound quite so good now does it?

Hard-up pensioners are probably better off, he concludes, putting that £1,000 a year towards good quality care or taking part in exercise.