The brain requires several nutrients for optimal health. A new study now finds that taking a multivitamin daily may help slow age-related memory decline.
This is a study carried out with 3,500 participants over 60 years of age for three years whose conclusions are published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; while the results "are remarkable," according to the authors, more research will be needed.
Although the scientists did not analyze whether any specific component of the supplement was related to memory improvement, "the findings," they say, "support the growing evidence that nutrition is important for optimizing brain health as we age."
Those responsible are scientists from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Columbia University Irving Medical Center, both in the United States; the study is part of a larger one called Cosmos, which includes a total of two independent randomized clinical trials (Cosmos-Web, the current one, and Cosmos-Mind, published in 2022).
"The findings that a daily multivitamin improved memory and slowed cognitive decline in two separate studies from the Cosmos randomized trial are noteworthy, suggesting that this supplementation holds promise as a safe, accessible, and affordable approach to protecting cognitive health in children." older adults", summarizes Professor JoAnn Manson in a note from Brigham.
In the Cosmos-Web, more than 3,500 adults over the age of 60 were randomly assigned to take a daily multivitamin supplement or a placebo for three years, explains a statement from the Irving Medical Center.
At the end of each year, the volunteers took a series of online cognitive tests—word memorization—at home designed to test the memory function of the hippocampus, an area of the brain affected by normal aging.
By the end of the first year, memory improved in people taking a daily multivitamin compared with those taking a placebo.
The improvement was sustained throughout the three years of the study, and the researchers calculated that the multivitamin intervention improved memory performance by the equivalent of 3.1 years compared to the placebo group.
Both this trial and the previous one showed that the participants who benefited the most might be those with a history of cardiovascular disease.
"There is evidence that people with cardiovascular disease may have lower levels of micronutrients that multivitamins can correct, but right now we don't really know why the effect is greater in this group," says Adam Brickman of Columbia University.
According to this researcher, "the results are promising and undoubtedly set the stage for important follow-up studies on the impact of multivitamin supplements on cognition."
However, Brickman cautions, supplements of any kind should not replace other, more holistic ways of getting the same micronutrients: "Although multivitamins are generally safe, people should always consult a doctor before taking them."
While Cosmos-Web provides evidence that multivitamin supplementation has cognitive benefits, more research will be needed to identify the specific nutrients that contribute most to this benefit and the underlying mechanisms involved, the authors summarize.
Additional research is also needed to determine if the findings are generalizable to more diverse populations (participants in the current trial were predominantly non-Hispanic white).