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Improving memory may be as easy as popping a multivitamin, study finds: ‘Prevents vascular dementia'

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 a three-year period. 

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Study marked by some limitations

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.”

“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.”

Vitamins in hand

“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,” the study author told Fox News Digital. (iStock)

Additionally, the participants were in generally good health without heart disease, cancer or history of stroke, Deland pointed out. 

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“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. 

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. 

“This is especially important in the care of our elderly population, for whom access to fresh, nutritious food is limited by availability, accessibility and cost,” Deland said. 

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Vitamin D deficiency is linked to worse cognition in later life, Deland said, while omega-3 fatty acid intake has been shown to aid in memory and cognitive function.

Doctor input is key

Older adults who are considering taking a daily multivitamin should talk to their physicians about whether supplementation is appropriate for them, Brickman noted.

This study was geared toward cognitive or memory changes that occur with normal aging, the researcher pointed out.

Particularly for adults who are already taking other supplements, it’s important to check with a doctor before adding a multivitamin to the mix, Raziano noted.

Too many vitamins could cause “toxicity and a potential overdose.”

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One benefit of multivitamins, however, is that the contents of the pills are pretty tightly controlled, Raziano pointed out.

She recommends going with a high-quality Centrum brand-name multivitamin; check to make sure it’s a fresh, non-expired bottle.

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