Fighting Alzheimer’s with a Milkshake?

Doctors are now prescribing a milkshake to some patients suffering from Alzheimer’s.  How does the drink work, and why some say it might be too good to be true.

Draw some water, pour in the powder, stir, and voila. That’s all it takes to make this milkshake neurologist Dr. Gerald Calegan is prescribing to some of his patients.

“It’s a medical food that is approved for treating Alzheimer’s disease,” says Dr. Calegan with the Neuromedical Center Clinic.

The medical food is called Axona, and according to Dr. Calegan it contains a derivative of coconut oil, and helps fuel the brain with ketones, an alternative brain fuel to glucose, which is what those suffering from Alzheimer’s are losing.

“Just sip on it for a few minutes after breakfast and it’s shown to improve memory scores in patients with Alzheimer’s disease,” says Calegan.

While Axona was approved by the FDA back in 2009, some are still skeptical as to how effective it is in treating Alzheimer’s disease.

“People will try anything when they have a terminal disease,” says Barbara Auten.

Barbara Auten is the executive director for Alzheimer’s Services in Baton Rouge. Her mother recently succumbed to the disease and says some under stress might be tempted to try something new.

“As the disease progresses, it’s as though the person regresses to almost infancy where they need 24 hour care,” says Auten. “So it demands so much attention from the caregiver it just wears them out.”

But her organization and some other critics aren’t ready to recommend the use of medical foods like Axona in place of long standing medications for Alzheimer’s just yet. In the meantime, Dr. Calegan says it’s working, and he’s impressed by his patients’ improvement.

“Remembering a grandchild’s birthday, being able to remember a doctor’s appointment, knowing that you’re taking your medicines properly – those things makes a big difference,” says Calegan.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, an estimated 5.4 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease.

– Story by Olivia Laborde, WBRZ, Baton Rouge, April 22, 2013