Previous studies have shown that multivitamins don’t always live up to their promises. Some even found that multivitamins have no health benefit whatsoever. But new research indicates otherwise.
Two studies by researchers at Mass General Brigham found that taking a daily multivitamin supplement is associated with significant benefits for memory and cognition in adults age 60 and older. The findings were recently published by the American Society for Nutrition.
The studies follow two others from the Mass General Brigham health care system that also suggested multivitamins have a positive effect.
One of Mass General’s most recent studies was a clinical trial involving more than 500 participants age 60 or older who were randomly assigned to take a daily multivitamin or placebo. They also took part in in-person cognitive assessments over a two-year period.
There was a significant improvement in episodic memory (a form of long-term memory) among participants who took a multivitamin, compared with those who took a placebo.
Mass General’s other recent study analyzed data on 5,000 participants, also 60 or older, from three clinical trials. It revealed “clear evidence” of benefits for episodic memory as well as overall cognitive functioning in participants who took a multivitamin.
Researchers say that the multivitamin slowed cognitive decline by an estimated two years compared with participants who took the placebo. They specify, though, that this success doesn’t apply to just any vitamin. The benefits were attributed to daily multivitamins containing 20 essential micronutrients (iron, vitamin A, vitamin D, etc.).
While the latest studies showed notable memory benefits from daily multivitamin use, there was no significant improvement in executive function skills such as the ability to plan, multitask, remember instructions or focus.
Still, lead researcher Dr. JoAnn Manson says the study finding that a multivitamin benefits memory and slows cognitive aging “is exciting and further supports the promise of multivitamins as a safe, accessible and affordable approach to protecting cognitive health in older adults.”