Taking multivitamins daily after age 60 can slow memory decline

NEW YORK — Individuals over 60 who take a daily multivitamin can slow age-related memory decline, a new study suggests. Results show the improvement remained steady over the three-year study duration, equivalent to approximately three years of age-related memory degradation. The impact was even more significant among participants with underlying heart disease.

Over 3,500 American adults over the age of 60 were randomly assigned to take a daily multivitamin supplement or a placebo for three years. At the conclusion of each year, participants completed a series of online cognitive tests at home, designed to evaluate the memory function of the hippocampus, an area of the brain influenced by normal aging.

After the first year, memory improvement was noted in individuals consuming a daily multivitamin, compared to those taking a placebo.

The study, led by researchers at Columbia University and Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard, aligns with another recent American study. The latter observed more than 2,200 older adults and found that taking a daily multivitamin improved overall cognition, memory recall, and attention.

Yellow supplements in a person's hand
(Photo by Alexander Grey on Unsplash)

“Cognitive aging 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,” says Professor Adam Brickman, the study leader from Columbia University, in a media release. “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.”

Although the researchers did not investigate whether any specific component of the multivitamin supplement was connected to the improvement in memory, the results contribute to growing evidence indicating the importance of nutrition in optimizing brain health with age.

“Our study shows that the aging brain may be more sensitive to nutrition than we realized, though it may not be so important to find out which specific nutrient helps slow age-related cognitive decline,” says Dr. Lok-Kin Yeung, the study’s first author, also from Columbia University. “Most older adults are worried about memory changes that occur with aging. Our study suggests that supplementation with multivitamins may be a simple and inexpensive way for older adults to slow down memory loss.”

The researchers conclude supplements can be beneficial, they shouldn’t overshadow the importance of obtaining micronutrients through healthy dietary practices. Though the use of multivitamins is widely deemed safe, it’s essential to consult with a medical professional before taking them.

This study is published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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South West News Service writer Stephen Beech contributed to this report.

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