Taking A Daily Multivitamin May Be The Key To A Sharper Memory

Fortune Well May 29, 2023


Taking A Daily Multivitamin May Be The Key To A Sharper Memory

If you’re looking to boost your memory, a trip down your supermarket’s multivitamin aisle may be in order. According to a new study from researchers at Columbia University and Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard, taking a daily multivitamin supplement can help slow age-related memory decline.

“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,” study leader Adam M. Brickman, Ph.D., professor of neuropsychology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, said in a press release about the study.

Study findings

While vitamins and dietary supplements have long been lauded for their contributions to maintaining general health, studies regarding their effectiveness when it comes to memory have been mixed.

The current study analyzed more than 3,500 adults older than 60 who were mostly white and non-Hispanic. Participants were randomly assigned either a daily multivitamin supplement or a placebo for three years.

After each year, participants completed a series of at-home online cognitive assessments to test the memory function of their hippocampus, an area of the brain typically affected by aging.

At the end of the first year, researchers found that memory improved for participants who were taking a daily multivitamin compared with those who were taking a placebo. The improvement, which researchers noted was sustained throughout the three-year period of the study, was equal to about three years of age-related memory decline. Additionally, the improvement was more pronounced in study participants who had underlying cardiovascular disease.

“There is evidence that people with cardiovascular disease may have lower micronutrient levels that multivitamins may correct, but we don’t really know right now why the effect is stronger in this group,” Brickman said.


Impact of nutrition on the brain

Researchers did not investigate whether any specific component of the multivitamin was responsible for the improvement in memory, but the study supports evidence that nutrition is key in optimizing brain health as we get older.

“Our study shows that the aging brain may be more sensitive to nutrition than we realized, though it may not be so important to find out which specific nutrient helps slow age-related cognitive decline,” Lok-Kin Yeung, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher at Columbia’s Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain and first author of the study, said in the same press release.

Although multivitamins offer a “safe, accessible, and affordable approach to protecting cognitive health in older adults,” according to the study, multivitamins should not take the place of a well-rounded diet to keep your brain sharp and your body healthy.

“Supplements will never give you what actual, real food will,” Kara Burnstine, RD, a nutrition educator at Pritikin Longevity Center, previously told Fortune. “They simply aid you along. They’re not meant to be a food replacement.”


Which multivitamins to take

Most brands offer the same benefits, but experts suggest looking for ones with the USP Verified Mark, an indicator that a particular brand has consistent quality and the actual ingredients listed on the label.

A previous study published in Alzheimer’s and Dementia found that participants who used Centrum Silver, which has 27 vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, had improved overall brain function, memory, and executive function. 

While multivitamins are generally considered safe, you should talk to your doctor before starting any supplements to ensure they won’t interact with other medications and/or put you at risk of other health issues.

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