A daily vitamin could delay cognition problems in seniors.
Gregory, a resident of Jersey City, sighs as he helps his mother into bed. “Thank you, Charles!” His mother replies and asks him for the fifth time that day if she called to see if she left her purse at the grocery store. Charles is Gregory’s late father, and there is no purse. Gregory’s mother has dementia, a condition that affects an estimated 5.4 million Americans over the age of 65. Dementia robs those who suffer from it of their cognitive faculties and forces families to act as caregivers or find costly arrangements for their ailing family members. Dementia is painful for all family members, leaving many wishing there was a way to delay symptoms or cure them altogether.
“There are moments,” Gregory (last name not provided) recounts, “where my mother can remember enough to know that she has forgotten everything. It’s hardest to see her when she does remember.”
For families like Gregory’s, a new study has recently been published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of Alzheimer’s Association claiming that daily use of multivitamins improves brain function in older adults. The study divided the 2,262 participants into three groups: a group receiving a placebo, another receiving cocoa extract with flavonoids, and another receiving a multivitamin. The participants took the pill every day for three years. The study was conducted double-blind meaning that neither the participant nor the physician knew who was receiving which pill.
The participants were monitored daily and asked to complete tests to evaluate their cognitive function like recalling stories and ordering digits. After three years, the researchers were shocked to discover that cognitive aging experienced a delay of 1.8 years, or 60% for those who received the multivitamin.
Laura Baker, an author of the study and a professor of geriatric medicine, said, “We are excited because our findings have uncovered a new avenue for investigation – for a simple, accessible, safe, inexpensive intervention that could have the potential to provide a layer of protection against cognitive decline.”
Researchers hypothesize that the multivitamin’s success was due, in large part, to the fact that multivitamins promote heart health. Senior citizens and those suffering from heart conditions, “could have lower levels in their blood of vitamins and minerals. So supplementing those vitamins and minerals could improve cardiovascular health and…cognitive health,” said Dr. Keith Vossel, the director of the Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer’s Research and Care.
Despite the study’s promising success, researchers still claim the results are not definitive and further research needs to be conducted. “It is too soon to make these recommendations,” Baker added.
After hearing about the study’s success, Gregory remains unconvinced, mainly because the results point to a delay in symptom presentation rather than a cure.
“My mother tried everything when she first started to lose her memories. She took vitamin E supplements daily, did word puzzles and sudoku. It might have helped somewhat but she lost her memory anyway.”
Promising research has been published about vitamin E and its ability to mitigate the risk of Alzheimer’s disease or, at the very least, delay its onset. However, definitive evidence has yet been able to show whether Vitamin E can prevent or even slow the onset of Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Moreover, promoting overuse of a vitamin can be detrimental to a person’s health. As always consulting one’s doctor is the best course of action before beginning a new treatment. For now, families struggling with caretaking for a loved one can take solace in the fact that researchers are coming even closer to understanding how Alzheimer’s works and developing prevention methods.