Taking a daily multivitamin supplement can slow age-related memory decline by three years for the over-60s, a new study suggests.
US researchers found that regular multivitamins improved overall mental ability, memory recall and attention for older adults, and seem to have additional benefits for those suffering with cardiovascular disease.
Many older people take vitamins or dietary supplements to boost general health but the new study suggests that they can also help protect the mind.
“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,” said study leader Dr Adam Brickman, professor of neuropsychology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.
“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.”
The study involved more than 3,500 participants aged 60 and older who completed web-based assessments of memory and cognition annually over three years.
At the end of each year, participants performed a series of online cognitive assessments at home designed to test memory function of the hippocampus, an area of the brain that is significantly affected by normal ageing.
Compared with the placebo group, participants randomised to receive multivitamin supplementation did significantly better on the memory tests after one year into the study and again after three years.
The researchers estimated that the multivitamin intervention improved memory performance by the equivalent of 3.1 years compared with the placebo group.
Multivitamins tend to include vitamin D, magnesium, calcium, zinc, iron, folate and vitamin B-12.
Although the team said they could not pinpoint which ingredients or combinations were behind the effect, they said that it supported growing evidence that nutrition is important to maintaining brain health during ageing.
The team said the findings support growing evidence that nutrition is important for maintaining brain health during ageing. The brain requires several nutrients for optimal health, and deficiencies in one or more of these nutrients may accelerate cognitive decline, experts believe.
“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,” said Dr Lok-Kin Yeung, a researcher at Columbia’s Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain.
“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.”
The research was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
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