Can a daily nutritious shake prevent memory loss? A new experiment aims to answer that, and is looking for volunteers.

After years of studying the way Americans eat, and the myriad health problems that result from poor diets, lead researcher Susan Roberts said it was time to be practical.

“We can be fundamentalist and say everyone should eat an optimal diet, but the truth is that for most people’s lives, it just won’t work for them,” said Roberts, chief scientist at the USDA’s Nutrition Research Center at Tufts University.

To be clear, Roberts encourages people to eat healthy, but realizes that it gets harder with age because calories need to decrease, especially for seniors.

“Healthy diets are important,” said Roberts. “But let’s come up with a plan B, too.”

The study was funded by National Institutes of Health, It will work for One year, with plans to expand for another four years if data indicate that the approach slows cognitive decline and participants can stick to the program.

Participants are asked to have one of the shakes daily and Record the flavor they chose – chocolate/vanilla, amaretto, or orange cream – and how they prepared it. The product, which contains about 180 calories, comes frozen and when thawed it has the consistency of a pudding. It can be taken as is or mixed with liquids, such as almond milk, to make a shake.

To be eligible, participants must be between 55 and 85 years old and be overweight or obese (A BMI 27 to 39.9, which translates to approximately 185 pounds to 270 pounds for De Harrow’s height, which is 5 feet 9 inches.) Participants should also not have serious memory problems, problems with attention or thinking, or suffer from diabetes.

The study will separate participants into four groups: a group receiving a shake supplement and a weight-loss program, a group just receiving a weight-loss program, a third receiving a shake supplement but no weight-loss intervention, and a fourth group receiving a placebo. A supplement that looks and tastes similar to the study product, but does not contain the same nutrients. (Participants who did not receive a weight loss program during the trial are eligible to receive it afterwards.)

Every few months, participants are expected to take standard memory tests, such as one that measures how many animals they can remember one minute after seeing their photos. The researchers will also examine the blood flow in each participant’s brain using an imaging technique known as near-infrared spectroscopy, which provides an indirect measurement of brain activity.

“There will be no magic bullet [to slow memory loss]said Dr. Robert Russell, Professor Emeritus of Nutrition at Tufts University, who works on behalf of federal regulators to monitor the trial’s safety and efficacy.

The specific ingredients of the shake are classified to protect the integrity of the experiment. It contains substances common in a “very healthy diet” and believed to support brain health, Roberts said, including fruits and vegetables that contain substances known as flavonoids, as well as sources of healthy fats and lean protein. Flavonoids are a type of antioxidant and are believed to protect against cell damage.

Roberts said other energy drinks that are widely marketed to seniors include essential nutrients, but not in amounts large enough to potentially slow memory loss, or may not include those thought to be specifically important for brain health.

Increasingly, research suggests that excess weight, especially with age, may be linked to cognitive decline. Research on certain substances, such as flavonoids, found in fruits and certain types of tea, chocolate and other foods, suggests that they may also be beneficial for brain health. But scientists are still deciphering which flavonoids, and in what amounts, might be most effective.

“There are five thousand identified flavonoids in our food supply … so it’s very complex,” said John Erdmann, professor emeritus of food sciences and human nutrition at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, who was not involved in the study. .

a 2020 analysis by British researchers Of 17 studies involving polyphenols, a substance found in plants that contain flavonoids, found “support for an association between polyphenol consumption and cognitive benefits,” but concluded that the link was “temporary, by no means definitive.” The authors said more research is needed.

Scientists believe flavonoids may help protect against inflammation and oxidative damage to brain cells, which may reduce the risk of cognitive decline.

Another complicating factor in trying to identify specific nutrients and their effect on the brain, Erdmann said, is all the other foods study participants may or may not eat.

“People who consume fruits, vegetables and foods high [flavonoids] They don’t consume a lot of saturated fat… Also the risks of developing high blood pressure and diabetes are lower, so this may be something they don’t do.”

Right now, de Harrow, one of the study participants, said one thing he doesn’t do is snack a lot at night because the daily shake supplement, which he prefers in pudding form, acts as an after-dinner dessert and fills him with satiety. .

“It kills hunger for the rest of the evening,” he said.

Roberts, the study’s lead author, put it this way: “This is designed to make people who don’t have an ideal diet get optimal nutrition,” she said. “if Someone turns 65 today, and you can expect to live another 20 years, and you don’t want to live those 20 years with dementia.”

For more information about the study, call 1-800-738-7555 or visit

Kay Lazar can be reached at Follow her on Twitter Tweet embed.

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