Multivitamin May Improve Cognition in Older People

As a company that makes supplements, we pay a lot of attention to research on vitamins. We’ve written about when supplements might not be the best choice for people. We’ve also written about unexpected ways that supplements may aid people. Whether or not we make a specific type of supplement, we want to help you have all the information and be able to make the right choices for yourself.

That’s why we were so interested in new research that found that taking multivitamins daily may slow cognitive decline in older people. According to a three-year randomized clinical trial with more than 2,200 older adults, cocoa extract has no impact on cognition, but taking a daily multivitamin can slow decline. The work is being published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.  

This is the first positive, large-scale, long-term study to show that multivitamin-mineral supplementation for older adults may slow cognitive aging. While the Alzheimer’s Association is encouraged by these results, we are not ready to recommend widespread use of a multivitamin supplement to reduce risk of cognitive decline in older adults,” said Dr. Maria Carrillo, chief science officer of the Alzheimer’s Association. “For now, and until there is more data, people should talk with their health care providers about the benefits and risks of all dietary supplements, including multivitamins.”

Dr. Carrillo makes a great point; it’s so important to speak to your doctor before making any changes to your daily routine. Supplements aren’t suitable for everyone. Your doctor, who knows what medications you’re taking and about your concerns and goals, can advise you about your best options. But, this research is exciting as we always want to hear about more possible ways for people to help themselves age healthily.

The research was a collaboration between Wake Forest Univ. School of Medicine and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The cocoa extract was also taken in the form of a supplement. The study aimed to see if either cocoa or a multivitamin would reduce the risk of developing heart problems, cancer or other health problems. The researchers were hopeful about the cocoa because it contains flavanols. Older studies have suggested it can aid cognition.

There’s an urgent need for safe and affordable interventions to protect cognition against decline in older adults,” said Dr. Laura Baker, professor of gerontology and geriatric medicine at Wake Forest Univ. School of Medicine and co-principal investigator of the trial. “Our study showed that although cocoa extract did not affect cognition, daily multivitamin-mineral supplementation resulted in statistically significant cognitive improvement.”

The team estimated that people taking the multivitamin in the study had 60 percent slower cognitive decline. The benefit was even more evident in people with heart disease, a know risk factor for dementia.

The study was limited by the fact that there wasn’t much diversity in the group. Everyone was over 65, which makes sense as it was an age-related study. However, they were almost all white and highly educated, which can be two factors in cognitive decline. More research is needed to see if the study stands up under scrutiny. However, it is promising.

Banner image: Julia Zolotova via Unsplash

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