A drink to save my life?! Milk-shaking up the medical world

If you remember, the last post I did was all about sepsis. Well, this week, I happened to stumble upon a very interesting article about a ‘vitamin cocktail that can treat sepsis’! How strange, a simple vitamin cocktail to treat a deadly condition like sepsis, surely there must be more to it?

[1] At the Eastern Virginia Medical School, Paul Marik gave a mix of Vitamin C, Vitamin B1 and a steroid to 47 sepsis patients in 2017. Before using the treatment, 19 of those 47 sepsis patients dies, whereas out of the 47 who got the treatment, all but 4 survived! Unfortunately, this would not qualify as enough evidence to determine that the cocktail is successful.

However, now the time has come to put the cocktail up to bigger tests. The way in which researchers are aiming to do this is by randomly selecting between 500-2000 patients at multiple hospitals, and giving some of them the cocktails, while others are given a placebo for about a year and a half. The researchers will want to answer questions about what the vitamin mixture does to speed up recovery in sepsis patients on life support. If any improvements in mortality are seen, it is likely that the study may be extended.

The main hope with this vitamin cocktail is that it will minimise any injury caused to the vital organs due to sepsis. Therefore, the researchers will be evaluating how well it prevents organ damage as well as how well it reduces death rates. Furthermore, what is so good about the cocktail is the limited risk of side effects. There can be some side effects of having too much Vitamin C. It can throw off measurements of blood sugar, which would mostly be concerning for those in patients who are getting extra glucose in the hospital. Furthermore, people who take a lot of Vitamin C are more likely to develop kidney stones.

However, there are a lot of benefits of getting that extra vitamin C and B1. Vitamin C lowers oxidative stress and inflammation (oxidative stress is an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the ability of the body to counteract or detoxify their harmful effects through neutralization by antioxidants [2], which can trigger inflammation leading to many chronic diseases such as Cancer, Cardiovascular disease and other neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease[3]). Vitamin C also helps blood vessels from dilating (widening or expanding) which can help maintain blood pressure. People who suffer from sepsis are usually deficient in vitamins C and B1, so when combined with the steroid hydrocortisone, the effects seem to be boosted. Vitamin C can also improve blood flow to tissues, which is exactly what sepsis patients need so that their cells can be supplied with enough nutrients and oxygen to prevent organ failure.

A vitamin cocktail is not the only thing that seems to be showing some degree of promising results for treating diseases. There was a nutrient milkshake being sold online in the UK which claimed to be able to slow the effects of Alzheimer’s, however, experts said that there was not enough evidence to support these claims. [4]

The milkshake, called Souvenaid, comes in strawberry or vanilla flavour. It contains a combination of fatty acids, vitamins and other nutrients. The milkshake should be taken once daily and the boost of nutrients is supposed to slow down the effects of Alzheimer’s in people with the earliest signs of this type of dementia.

Unfortunately, clinical trials do not show the results to be positive. 311 patients with very early Alzheimer’s or mild cognitive impairment were given a daily drink, but only half of them were given Souvenaid while the other half were given a placebo—a drink with no added nutrients. After two years, the patients were reassessed, but no advantage from the treatment was found. However, the patients who received Souvenaid did have slightly less brain shrinkage on brain scans, which offers some level of promise because it is brain shrinkage in the memory-controlling regions of the brain which is often seen with worsening dementia.

Whether the drinks are successful or not, the concepts have certainly milk-shaken up the medical world!

By Muskaan

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