Nestle, best known for making candy bars like Butterfinger and Kit Kat, is branching out into "brain health products" by purchasing a stake in a company that makes milkshakes for Alzheimer's patients, The Wall Street Journal reports. Broomfield, Colo.,-based Accera's key brand is Axona, a prescription "medical food" intended to treat mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease. It's already on the market in the U.S.
The acquisition is part of a much larger foray for the Vevey, Switzerland-based company into the medical food market -- foods and drinks created to help prevent and manage various diseases and disorders.
"Our stake in Accera is a strategic step forward in building up our brain health portfolio," Nestlé Health Science President and CEO Luis Cantarell said in a statement on the Nestle website. "Axona is an innovative medical food with a well understood mode of action and offers the potential for personalized nutrition for AD patients," he added.
Studies have shown that as Alzheimer's progresses, the brain becomes less able to process glucose for the energy it needs. Axona contains a compound made from coconut oil that is metabolized by the liver to produce ketone bodies, naturally occurring compounds the brain can use as an alternative energy source. It comes in a powder that can be mixed with a nutritional drink (we're assuming Ensure), juice, water, coffee, milk, ice cream, yogurt, oatmeal or pudding -- all that stuff old people like.
Clinical studies by Accera have shown Axona can improve memory and cognitive function in some Alzheimer's patients after about 45 days of use. Already, Axona shake packets are prescribed to about 30,000 Alzheimer's patients. (But oh, those pesky side effects. The most common ones were "mild to moderate" diarrhea, nausea, gas and stomach discomfort.)
Nestlé Health Science was created in 2011 with the goal of pioneering (and cashing in on) the emerging industry blending the traditional nutrition and pharmaceutical industries. It also hopes to help develop products to address chronic gastrointestinal, metabolic, and other brain conditions.
In recent years, NHS has also acquired Vitaflo, which makes clinical nutritional products for people with genetic disorders that affect how food is processed by the body; CM&D Pharma Ltd., a company that specializes in the development of products for patients with chronic conditions like chronic kidney disease; and Prometheus Laboratories, a U.S. firm specializing in diagnostics and licensed specialty pharmaceuticals for gastrointestinal diseases and cancer. It also holds a minority stake in Vital Foods, a New Zealand-based company that develops kiwifruit-based solutions for gastrointestinal conditions.
The Alzheimer's milkshake currently comes in two flavors: vanilla and strawberry. Um, what? Let's hope Nestle has something to say about that. If we've gotta be old and demented, at least let us have chocolate milkshakes.