Adults over age 60 who want to stave off memory loss could benefit from taking a daily multivitamin supplement, suggests a recent study from Columbia University in New York and Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard in Boston.
“Daily multivitamin supplementation improved memory in older adults after one year, an effect that was sustained, on average, over the three years of follow up,” Adam M. Brickman, PhD, professor of neuropsychology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, told Fox News Digital.
During the study — published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition — more than 3,500 adults over age 60 were randomly assigned to take either a daily multivitamin or a placebo for three years.
At the end of each year, the participants completed self-administered cognitive tests to determine the strength of their memory. After the first year, those taking the multivitamin showed memory improvement compared to the placebo group — an effect that continued over the entire course of the study.
In a previous 2022 study published in the Alzheimer’s & Dementia Journal, researchers found that older adults who took daily multivitamins experienced improved cognition, memory and executive function.
The effects of the multivitamin were seen only in certain aspects of memory, pointed out Dr Owen Deland from the division of geriatrics at the Center for Healthy Senior Living at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. (He was not involved in the study.)
“Improvements were seen in specific areas of memory like immediate recall, but not in executive function (decision-making) or object recognition in the multivitamin group compared with placebo,” Deland told Fox News Digital. “There are risk factors that we don’t know about yet, and I believe nutrition is a significant one.”
There was also a sampling bias, with the bulk of the patients in the study falling into a certain demographic, as lead researcher Brickman pointed out. “The study participants were predominantly White with high education, and therefore not representative of the U.S. population,” he told Fox News Digital.
“The demographic composition of the participants limits our ability to generalize the findings.” Additionally, the participants were in generally good health without heart disease, cancer or a history of stroke, Deland pointed out. “Whether or not these observations can be applied to the general public remains to be studied,” he said.
People who had cardiovascular disease experienced a bigger memory boost from the multivitamins, the study found. The heart disease link was particularly interesting to Dr Donna Raziano, a geriatrician and medical director at Inspira LIFE in New Jersey, who did not work on the study.
“There are many different types of dementia — vascular, Alzheimer’s, Lewy-Body and mixed,” she told Fox News Digital. “The fact that this study shows prevention of cognitive decline with underlying cardiovascular disease shows that [the multivitamins could] prevent vascular dementia.”
Vascular dementia is a type of cognitive decline caused by impaired blood flow to the brain, per the Mayo Clinic. While it often occurs after a stroke, it can also result from other conditions that interrupt the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the brain.
While it may seem that multivitamins are beneficial to everyone, “the common thinking in the past has been that they don’t benefit older adults, especially in the setting of a healthy, balanced diet,” according to Hackensack’s Deland.
“However, the increasing prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease in the U.S. suggests that there are risk factors we don’t know about yet, and I believe nutrition is a significant one,” he went on.
Given that numerous studies have suggested that diets low in nutrient density or high in highly processed ingredients can increase the chances of someone developing cognitive impairment, Deland believes that supplementing the diet with multivitamins may help preserve cognitive function.