Posted on Nov 15, 2022, 7 p.m.
Multivitamins, some people are for them and some are against them. Regardless, millions of people take one every day for various reasons such as to make up for deficits in their diet, boosting their immune system, regulating metabolism, and bolstering brain health. You can find advertisements claiming wide-ranging health benefits (some that are even a little far-fetched), though most can offer little to no evidence to back up their claims.
In general research on supplements and multivitamins has yielded a big bag of mixed results. For example, recently a leading authority on preventative healthcare reviewed 90 of the best studies available investigating vitamins and supplements and they concluded that the products did not protect healthy adults who were lacking in nutritional deficits against cardiovascular disease, cancer, and death from all causes.
All these mixed results lead to even more questions like would research on different doses, different supplement combinations, or populations yield different findings and conclusions. The answer to that can probably set off some heated debates in either direction, but according to a recent study focussing on memory and brain function, this may have just happened.
Despite decades of research, the brain remains a puzzle, and current options for improving brain health are very limited. Regular exercise, keeping stress in check, getting enough sleep, maintaining a healthy weight, and eating a healthful diet has been shown to help improve cardiovascular health and lower the risks of certain dementias. But there really aren’t any medicines or treatments on the market that can reliably help to improve long-term brain function, and this is why researchers around the globe continue to investigate if foods or supplements can be effective.
Alzheimer’s and Dementia recently published one of those new studies involving over 2,200 participants aged 65+ who were randomly assigned to receive cocoa or a placebo, a multivitamin or a placebo, or both coca and a multivitamin for 3 years. Centrum Silver was chosen for this study, it contains 27 vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients in various amounts.
After three years tests of cognition were analyzed to reveal that those taking cocoa alone did not demonstrate any improvements, however, those taking the multivitamin demonstrated improved scores on tests of overall brain function (especially in those with cardiovascular disease), memory, and executive function.
The researchers estimated that three years of taking the multivitamin could slow age-related decline in brain function by as much as 60% based on their findings from the randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial.
While these are positive results the study was not without limitations such as 89% of the participants being white, it is not known if some of the benefits were due to deficiencies in certain nutrients, it is not known if the effects will wane over time, and we don’t know if there will be an effect in preventing common types of dementia. Even still the results remain impressive.
Yet this brings to attention an earlier randomized and placebo-controlled trial which was larger and long term that reported finding no improvements in brain function among male physicians aged 65+ who were taking multivitamins.
But again, were the doses the same, was it the same multivitamin and did the multivitamin contain the exact same ingredients, as always mixed results stem from using different methods unless everything is uniformly the same how can you really compare? This really is an ongoing debate. It does mean that more research is warranted to investigate who is more likely to benefit from multivitamins, at what dosage, and which part of the multivitamin is the most important.
Hopefully, the next trails will be longer, larger, and include a more diverse population. As long as the research is not uniform the results will continue to be mixed. Studies such as this one help science catch up to anecdotal reports of positive benefits. Another reason that this study is important is because if it can be confirmed it means that there may be a safe, relatively inexpensive, and widely available way to help improve the quality of life for the aging global population.
However, the multibillion-dollar questions still remain because there is a difference between improving cognitive function and helping to prevent dementia. Unfortunately, there is a large portion of the global population anxiously waiting to find out if taking a multivitamin or supplement can help to prevent conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. Fingers crossed, it’s good news, and sooner rather than later.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement.
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