Cognitive decline may be decreased with the use of a daily multivitamin.
Memory decline is one of the frustrating experiences that can come along with aging. As people get older, they tend to become more forgetful. Some of that forgetfulness can be pretty harmless, such as not remembering where the TV remote was left after getting up from the couch. In other cases, memory loss can be dangerous, like when it impacts an individual’s ability to remember to take important medications. This forgetfulness is often chalked up to an inevitable part of getting older, and that might be true to some degree. However, a recent study has shown that regular vitamin use might actually help fight memory loss and enable older people to retain more of their memory for a longer period of time than if they didn’t use a multivitamin at all.
Researching memory decline in older people is a challenging task due to the nature of the situation. For most people who are free from other forms of cognitive decline, memory loss occurs gradually over an extended period. This makes it difficult to study, and in order to monitor how memory loss is impacted by various interventions, it’s necessary to track individuals over the long term.
The study that is the basis for this new thinking about the role of multivitamins in reducing memory decline used over 3,500 participants. Half of these individuals were given a brand-name multivitamin to take daily, while the other half were given a placebo. This went on for three years, and by the end of the study, those who were taking the multivitamin were found to have better memory retention than the placebo group.
While the findings of this study are certainly encouraging, there are some interesting notes to add to the research. For one thing, since it is a multivitamin product being administered, researchers don’t have any way of knowing which of the ingredients in that multivitamin, or what combination of the ingredients, is driving memory retention. Over-the-counter multivitamins are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and thus, ingredients can vary widely.
In addition to that limitation, perhaps the biggest point of concern regarding the research is simply the timeframe of the study to this point. With only three years of data, it’s hard to draw any firm conclusions about what factors are at play and why the vitamin group did better on the memory testing than the other group. The process of memory loss in older humans goes on for far longer than three years, so it is unknown to this point whether these results would continue to be seen if the study were to be carried out for a decade or more.
The great thing about the study, however, is the simplicity and affordability of what it recommends. Multivitamins are generally rather affordable and accessible, they are easy to take each day, and nothing invasive is required to get promising results. While more research is sure to be done on this connection, many older adults may benefit from adding a multivitamin to their ongoing care plan.