A comprehensive study led by researchers at Mass General Brigham spanning since 2016 has proposed that a daily multivitamin could potentially decelerate cognitive decline in elderly individuals by approximately two years.
This large-scale, nationwide controlled trial involved over 21,000 participants aged 60 and above, focusing on the impacts of various lifestyle interventions on memory and decision-making abilities.
The recent findings, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, specifically delved into a subgroup of 573 participants who underwent face-to-face cognitive assessments after consistently taking a daily multivitamin for two to three years.
Among them, 272 were randomly assigned to the multivitamin group, receiving the Centrum Silver pill by Haleon, while 301 were placed in the placebo group.
The Centrum Silver pill, priced at about 19 cents per pill, is tailored for individuals over 50 and includes essential nutrients such as vitamin D, calcium, and zinc, believed to support brain function.
Notably, participants taking the multivitamin demonstrated a “statistically significant” enhancement in episodic memory, involving tasks like recalling lists of words.
Multivitamins and Cognitive Aging Insights
Episodic memory pertains to the conscious recollection of past everyday events.
While there was less improvement in executive function tasks, such as counting backwards, the researchers highlighted the “biologic plausibility” of the findings.
Combinations of vitamins and minerals are known to interact with various pathways supporting cognitive health, and deficiencies in older adults may heighten the risk of cognitive decline.
Chirag Vyas, the lead study author, emphasized, “The meta-analysis of three separate cognition studies provides strong and consistent evidence that taking a daily multivitamin, containing more than 20 essential micronutrients, helps prevent memory loss and slow down cognitive aging.”
Despite manufacturers and some scientists advocating for the benefits of supplements, skeptics question the ability of multivitamins to effectively combat aging in the brain.
The supplement market, valued at up to $50 billion annually in North America alone, has faced criticism, with concerns raised about the potential delay in seeking medical treatment for those relying on over-the-counter vitamins.
Dr. Sarah Lock, senior vice-president of the American Association of Retired Persons, remarked, “Supplements for brain health appear to be a huge waste of money for the 25 percent of adults over 50 who take them,” suggesting that funds could be better directed towards activities genuinely improving brain health.