Can a basic multivitamin boost brain health in older adults?

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A recent study has unveiled a promising revelation about the commonplace multivitamin, a daily staple for many. It appears that this unassuming supplement might hold the key to decelerating cognitive decline in older adults.

Considering the widespread impact of dementia and cognitive decline affecting millions globally, and with one in 12 individuals over 65 facing these challenges in Australia, the quest for a safe and economical method to safeguard senior brain health has become urgent.

The driving force behind this effort is the COcoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study—a comprehensive randomised trial conducted across the United States. The trial focused on assessing the impact of cocoa extract and multivitamin supplements (specifically Centrum Silver) on cognitive decline, alongside their effects on other conditions such as heart disease and cancer.

Despite finding no significant benefits for most of the studied conditions, the study did reveal a notable positive influence on brain health and cognition.

The study enlisted the participation of women over 65 and men over 60 without a history of heart attack, stroke, or cancer (except for skin cancer). Cognition was evaluated through in-person assessments in a subset of the study known as COSMOS-clinic, involving 573 participants.

The findings indicated a “modest” improvement in cognition over a two-year period with the use of multivitamins compared to a placebo.

Remarkably, multivitamin supplements demonstrated a statistically significant improvement in episodic memory, though not in executive function and attention.

Study coauthor Laura Baker, a professor of gerontology and geriatric medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina said, “The fact that similar multivitamin benefits were observed in three different groups of people enrolled in the same parent trial increases our confidence that daily multivitamin supplementation holds promise as a strategy to support cognitive health in older adults.”

Previous research has suggested that taking a daily multivitamin 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.

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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