Fighting Alzheimer's Disease With a Milkshake?

A vanilla milkshake for Alzheimer's patients provides energy to the brain, says the company that sells it. A company-funded clinical trial found short-term positive effects in cognition and memory, but scientists say so far there is insufficient evidence that the drink is effective.

An estimated 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease, according to the Alzheimer's Association. The disease, which affects 1 in 8 people over 65, causes memory loss, decreased judgment as well as mood and personality changes. As the disease progresses, sufferers become unable to care for themselves and in its final stages, it is fatal. A number of prescription drugs are available to fight Alzheimer's—including cholinesterase inhibitors that work to improve memory and thought but are not a cure.

The brains of Alzheimer's patients don't convert glucose into energy as efficiently as healthy brains, which can result in a decrease in cognitive function, according to Accera Inc., the Broomfield, Colo., company that sells the milkshake, called Axona. The shake contains caprylic triglyceride, a compound derived from coconut oil that is metabolized in the liver to produce ketone bodies, which serve as alternate brain fuel for Alzheimer's patients, the company says.

Axona, which is available by prescription only, is a 217-calorie packet that should be mixed with any type of liquid using a shaker cup or a blender. Chocolate syrup is a favorite, says John Richard, a Lexington, Ky., family physician who has prescribed it to 30 patients and says most have had good results. Axona can be used either on its own or with Alzheimer's drugs, the company says.

Alzheimer's researchers who reviewed the company's data say more research is need before they would recommend it to patients.

Click here to read more from The Wall Street Journal.