Why This Skeptical Neuroscientist Takes a Multivitamin Every Day

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In recent years, a growing body of research has found that taking a multivitamin does little to boost your health.

However, at least one neuroscientist says his own research has convinced him to take a multivitamin every day.

Adam Brickman, professor of neuropsychology at Columbia University, recently told Insider that he was “skeptical” about multivitamins when he began to study their impact on memory several years ago.

However, the research changed his mind. Brickman, who is also an associate director at Columbia’s Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain, co-authored a 2023 study for which men over age 60 and women over age 65 took a daily multivitamin and underwent memory tests.

The test results of these participants were then compared with the results of others who took a placebo. Those who took the multivitamin performed better on the memory tests.

Other researchers have turned up similar results. For example, a 2022 study from Wake Forest University School of Medicine and Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that taking a daily multivitamin might boost cognition in seniors.

Brickman now takes a multivitamin every morning. As he told Insider:

“When we start seeing that kind of consistency across well-designed studies, it certainly helps convince me — the ultimate skeptic — that we’re on to something real.”

Should you take a multivitamin? “Not necessarily,” says the National Institutes of Health.

The NIH emphasizes that many people get all the essential vitamins and minerals they need through their diet.

Brickman himself says that for most people, the primary source of vitamins and other nutrients “should be from whole and healthy foods.”

The NIH also underscores that research has found multivitamins “have little or no effect on the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer or heart disease.”

Still, the NIH acknowledges that some people “might benefit” from taking multivitamins. They include:

  • People over age 50
  • Pregnant people and those who could become pregnant
  • Breastfed babies and toddlers
  • People who avoid certain foods or who do not eat nutritious foods

Before you decide to join Brickman and others in taking a daily multivitamin, talk to your doctor. In some situations, taking a multivitamin can pose health dangers.

For example, people who are on blood thinners can be at risk if they take in too much vitamin K, which can interfere with the medication’s effectiveness.

The NIH also emphasizes that many of the foods we eat are fortified with extra vitamins and minerals. That means taking a multivitamin could tip you over the maximum recommended limit.

The NIH website has vitamin and mineral fact sheets that can help you discover the upper limits for all nutrients.

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