Taking multivitamin supplements on a daily basis may help protect against cognitive decline in older adults, early research suggests.
Scientists in the US found that consuming these vitamins for three years resulted in around 60% slowing of cognitive decline, with those living with cardiovascular disease seeing the greatest benefit.
But the researchers cautioned that their findings, published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, need to be confirmed with additional research before health recommendations can be made.
Laura D Baker, professor of gerontology and geriatric medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in North Carolina, US, and one of the principal investigators of the trial, said: “It’s too early to recommend daily multivitamin supplementation to prevent cognitive decline.
“While these preliminary findings are promising, additional research is needed in a larger and more diverse group of people.
“Also, we still have work to do to better understand why the multivitamin might benefit cognition in older adults.”
The research looked at data from more than 2,200 participants, aged 65 and older, who were either given multivitamins, cocoa extracts or placebos – which are designed to have no therapeutic benefit.
The test subjects were followed for more than three years.
Previous research has indicated that cocoa extracts can help with cognition, but the scientists involved in the current study found there was no benefit to taking these.
Prof Baker said: “Our study showed that although cocoa extract did not affect cognition, daily multivitamin-mineral supplementation resulted in statistically significant cognitive improvement.
“This is the first evidence of cognitive benefit in a large longer-term study of multivitamin supplementation in older adults.”
The team also found that those with significant cardiovascular disease saw the greatest benefit, which the researchers said is “important because these individuals are already at increased risk for cognitive impairment and decline”.
Commenting on the research, Maria C Carrillo, chief science officer at the Alzheimer’s Association in the US, said: “This is the first positive, large-scale, long-term study to show that multivitamin-mineral supplementation for older adults may slow cognitive aging.
“While the Alzheimer’s Association is encouraged by these results, we are not ready to recommend widespread use of a multivitamin supplement to reduce risk of cognitive decline in older adults.
“Independent confirmatory studies are needed in larger, more diverse study populations.”