Can taking daily multivitamins really improve memory in older adults?

May 29, 2023
Multivitamins linked to lowering chances of cognitive decline in older adults. Source: Getty

Could the humble multivitamin be the key to maintaining our memories as we age?

Researchers suggest it could be after discovering that daily multivitamins may help slow memory loss in older adults.

According to the results from a clinical trial conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Columbia University, older adults taking daily multi-mineral supplements showed improved memory over those who didn’t.

As part of the study, researchers directed over 3,500 participants over the age of 60 to either take a daily multivitamin or an inactive placebo for three years.

In order to examine any cognitive change, at the start and end of each year, participants were asked to take an online cognitive test to assess their short-term memory.

Compared to the placebo group, participants taking multivitamins performed significantly better, noting that the multivitamin group was three years “younger” in terms of memory function than that of the placebo group.

“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 study leader Adam M. Brickman, PhD, professor of neuropsychology at Columbia University.

Multivitamins use is already popular among older Australians, with nearly 75 per cent of older adults over 70 already taking daily supplements.

The study’s co-leader and chief of Brigham’s Division of preventive medicine, JoAnn Manson, says that while their findings are “remarkable” and do offer a possible inexpensive solution to delay cognitive decline, she stressed that a dietary supplement “will never be a substitute for a healthy diet and a healthy lifestyle”.

That being said, there are numerous ways older Australians can boost their brain health simply with their diet.

Harvard Medical School researchers, for example, says foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins and antioxidants contribute to better brain health.

Some of the big providers of omega-3 fatty acids are fish such as salmon, cod or tuna, which contain unsaturated fats that can lower blood levels of proteins that form lumps in the brain which are thought to cause Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers recommends eating fatty fish twice a week to maintain strong cognitive function.

A study conducted by Rush University Medical Centre has also found that eating one serve of leafy green vegetables a day can be an effective way of promoting brain health.

Maintaining a healthy gut is also important as we age, as a new study from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) suggests that certain gut bacteria in our microbiome may be a contributor to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Our gut microbiome plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy immune system, regulating hormones, and even influencing mood and brain function. Poor gut health can also lead to inflammation in the body, which is linked to a higher risk of chronic diseases like cancer.

As we age, our bodies become less efficient at absorbing nutrients, making it even more important to focus on maintaining good gut health through a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle habits. By prioritising gut health, we can improve overall health and reduce the risk of a wide range of health issues.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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