Medical Minute 7-7: Treating Alzheimer's With a Shake

By: Vanessa Welch Email
By: Vanessa Welch Email

Alzheimer's is a disease that can strike in the prime of life without discrimination. Neurologist Richard Isaacson watched family members fall victim to it. Now, he's using an all-encompassing approach to try and stop it.

"I want to do anything and everything that's safe and beneficial," said Richard Isaacson, M.D., Neurologist at the University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine.

In addition to medications, therapy and exercise, Doctor Isaacson is turning to medical foods to help delay memory loss in his patients.

"It's not a typical pill. It's not a patch. It's something you have to shake up and drink slowly after each meal."

Axona is a medical shake - an energy drink of sorts for the brain.

"It basically gives the brain an alternative food source."

Research shows after an Alzheimer's patient drinks it, ketone bodies circulate in the brain.

Teresa Alfonzo's family started seeing the signs of Alzheimer's in their mother ten years ago. Her memory faded fast. In January of this year, Teresa was asked by her doctor to draw a clock. But her drawing was just a few numbers arranged in some sort of box shape. It looked nothing like a clock.

That's when Teresa started on Axona. Three months later, her drawing of a clock started to look like a clock.

"This [shows picture] is her clock. She did the second try…and was concentrating very hard. It's a blessing really…it's huge progress."

In a double blink study, Axona was given to 75 Alzheimer's patients. Another 75 took a placebo. After 90 days, all the people taking Axona remained stable or got better. the people taking the placebo did not. Experts say Axona works for 45 percent of Alzheimer's patients.

"If grandpa can remember his grandson's name…if grandma can be alert…engaged and talking, and that's a win-win for the patient, the caregiver and also me."

And although some patients see results immediately, the Alzheimer's Association does not endorse any medical food. It released a statement calling all medical foods "a subject of concern". And some doctors are reluctant to use them due to lack of scientific research. But Teresa's family feels it's working.

"I feel like I've gotten my mother back again."

For more information on other series produced by Ivanhoe Broadcast News contact John Cherry at (407) 691-1500,


BACKGROUND: Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and become progressively worse, eventually interfering with daily tasks. Some warning signs of Alzheimer’s include memory loss affecting daily life, problems planning or problem solving, confusion with time or place, trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationship and misplacing things. Most people with Alzheimer’s are 65 years or older, but it is not a normal part of aging. Currently, there is no treatment for Alzheimer’s but there are drugs to decrease the symptoms and increase the quality of life. (SOURCE: Alzheimer’s Association)

AXONA: Axona provides the brain with an energy source it doesn’t normally get form a regular diet. Glucose is the primary source of energy for the brain, and Alzheimer’s patients show a decline in the ability to metabolize glucose in the brain. Without sufficient glucose the brain will be damaged causing impaired memory and cognition and even brain shrinkage. Axona is a powder that is usually mixed with a high protein drink, and is turned into ketone bodies by the liver. Ketone bodies provide a great alternative energy source for brain cells. Ketone bodies are naturally occurring in foods, coming from fatty acids. Clinical trials have shown that Axona improves cognitive function in some Alzheimer’s patients. Axona is mixed in a drink once a day and should be drank after a meal. It can be taken with Alzheimer’s medicine. Axona is prescribed by a doctor. (SOURCE: Accera)

ABOUT MEDICAL FOODS: A medical food is intended for the clinical dietary management of a disease or condition that requires special nutritional needs. Medical foods are to be used under supervision of a physician. Medical foods must have GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) ingredients. They must comply with FDA regulations regarding labeling, product claims and manufacturing. (SOURCE: Axona)

For More Information, Contact:

Madeleine Desmond/ Media Relations
(212) 827-0020

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