Trials on nutraceutical supplementation for Alzheimer's too short to produce useful results: Industry expert

By Cheryl Tay

- Last updated on GMT

An overwhelming majority (99.6%) of traditional pharmaceutical Alzheimer drugs have failed in the last few decades. ©Getty Images
An overwhelming majority (99.6%) of traditional pharmaceutical Alzheimer drugs have failed in the last few decades. ©Getty Images
Clinical trials on supplementation for Alzheimer's disease are conducted over "too short a time scale", an industry expert has revealed after new research showed limited effects.

Senescence Life Sciences founder Shawn Watson told NutraIngredients-Asia​: "The reality (and intent) of targeted supplementation is that the clinical effects take time to build. A supplement or nutritional intervention, even for conditions as dire as Alzheimer’s disease, require a new interpretation of long-term study.

"Instead of days and weeks, researchers need to start looking at months and potentially years, with regards to the efficacy of supplements."

These comments were made in light of a six-week pilot study​ that tested the effects of Ganoderma lucidum​ spore powder (GLSP) on Alzheimer's disease.

The study, conducted by China's Jiamusi University, explored the efficacy and safety of the spore powder of Ganoderma lucidum ​— a species of mushroom more commonly known as lingzhi ​or reishi ​— in treating 42 Alzheimer's patients for six weeks.

All the patients in the intervention group received four 250mg capsules of GLSP three times daily, while those in the control group received a placebo in the same dose, size, colour and flavour.

After six weeks, the researchers reported that GLSP "did not show more encouraging outcomes in symptoms improvement and quality of life enhancement"​ when compared with the control group, possibly due to the short treatment period and small sample size.

At arm's length

Watson said that as rates of dementia continue to rise and populations continue to age, "it comes as no surprise that brain health products are one of the fastest-growing categories in the nutraceutical market"​.

"However, despite robust trends, the scientific community continues to keep nutraceutical solutions at arm's length when it comes to prevention and / or treatment for pathological conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease."

He added that this hesitation, particularly within academic researchers, was "intriguing"​, especially since an overwhelming majority (99.6%) of traditional pharmaceutical Alzheimer drugs had failed in the last few decades.

Watson had spoken at our recent Healthy Ageing APAC Summit​ on the need for a fresh approach to preventing and managing Alzheimer's, saying that supplementation was an area that warranted more research and investment.

Challenges in pathology

He said there were two main challenges hindering the adoption of targeted supplementation to treat age-related neurological pathologies in the research community.

Firstly, there is a dearth of regulations within the industry, preventing direct translations from clinical trials into mainstream adoption.

Watson said: "Simply put, the quality, consistency and purity of compounds used in clinical trials tend to not match what a consumer can buy on the shelf.

"Numerous publicised scandals within the industry have created an inherent distrust in supplements and cast a shadow over compounds and products that have shown clear clinical benefits."

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