A daily multivitamin pill could slow age-related memory decline, study suggests

Dr Zoe reveals which supplements to take

The importance of supplements for good health has been heavily debated over the past century.

While some experts argue against the use of the dietary products if you aren’t deficient, others say they may hold some benefits.

Now, new research, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggests that taking a daily multivitamin pill could slow age-related memory decline in those over 60.

The research team estimated the improvement, which was sustained over the three-year study period, was equivalent to about three years of age-related memory decline.

What’s more, the effect was even more pronounced in participants with underlying heart disease.

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The first author Dr Lok-Kin Yeung said: “Our study shows that the ageing brain may be more sensitive to nutrition than we realised, though it may not be so important to find out which specific nutrient helps slow age-related cognitive decline.

“Most older adults are worried about memory changes that occur with ageing.

“Our study suggests that supplementation with multivitamins may be a simple and inexpensive way for older adults to slow down memory loss.”

During the research, more than 3,500 American adults over the age of 60 were randomly assigned to take a daily multivitamin supplement or placebo for three years.

At the end of each year, the study participants performed a series of online cognitive assessments at home.

These tests were designed to test the memory function of the hippocampus, which describes an area of the brain that is affected by normal ageing.

By the end of the first year, the research team noticed memory improvement in those who took the daily multivitamin.

These striking findings are consistent with another recent American study of more than 2,200 older adults that found that taking a daily multivitamin improved overall cognition, memory recall, and attention.

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Study leader Professor Adam Brickman, of Columbia University, said: “Cognitive ageing is a top health concern for older adults, and this study suggests that there may be a simple, inexpensive way to help older adults slow down memory decline.

“There is evidence that people with cardiovascular disease may have lower micronutrient levels that multivitamins may correct, but we don’t really know right now why the effect is stronger in this group.”

It’s currently not clear whether there’s a specific component of the multivitamin supplement that is especially potent.

However, the findings support growing evidence that nutrition is important for optimising brain health as we age.

Prof Brickman said: “Because of our innovative approach of assessing cognitive outcomes using internet-based tests, we were able to examine the effects of a multivitamin in thousands of study participants.

“The findings are promising and certainly set the stage for important follow-up studies about the impact of multivitamin supplementation on cognition.

“[However], supplementation of any kind shouldn’t take the place of more holistic ways of getting the same micronutrients.

“Though multivitamins are generally safe, people should always consult a physician before taking them.”

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