Taking a multivitamin supplement may help slow memory loss in people aged 60 and older, a study suggests.
Researchers in the US looked at data from more than 3,500 adults who were part of the COSMOS-Web clinical trial.
The scientists found that memory improved for people taking a daily multivitamin, compared with those who took a placebo.
Study leader Adam Brickman, professor of neuropsychology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, 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.’
For the study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the participants were randomly assigned to take a daily Centrum Silver multivitamin or placebo for three years.
They did memory tests every year to see how it affected them.
Those taking the multivitamin did significantly better on the tests after the first year, with benefits continuing throughout the three-year study period.
Participants with underlying cardiovascular disease saw a particular improvement in performance when taking the supplement.
Prof Brickman said: ‘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.’
The researchers said further studies are needed to identify the specific nutrients contributing to the benefit and the underlying mechanisms involved.
Lok-Kin Yeung, a postdoctoral researcher in Columbia’s Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Ageing Brain and first author of the study, 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.’
The participants in the study mostly comprised of white people of European descent so further research is needed to determine whether the findings can be applied to a more diverse study population, the team said.
They also warned that supplements should not replace a healthy diet.
Prof Brickman added: ‘Though multivitamins are generally safe, people should always consult a physician before taking them.’
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