Multivitamin pills are often called a waste of money, because according to several researchers there is no evidence that they actually have an effect on health.
But a new study shows that daily supplements can have a surprising impact on your memory as you age.
Originally another purpose
In the new study, researchers followed nearly 2,300 Americans between the ages of 65 and 100 for three years.
The original goal was to find out whether flavonoids, a natural substance found in chocolate, can slow down the cognitive changes that can occur with age.
Before the trial started, each participant therefore took tests for memory, numeracy and vocabulary.
The subjects were then randomly divided into three groups. The first group took a flavonoid supplement every day, the second a combined multivitamin and mineral pill, and the last group received a placebo. Each year, the participants underwent the same tests.
Researchers: more research needed
When the trial ended after three years, the group who took a multivitamin every day was 1.8 years younger in terms of cognitive age.
This means, among other things, that they were better at remembering past experiences, the so-called episodic memory. The researchers saw no benefits in the group that took a cocoa extract containing flavonoids every day.
The greatest effect was seen in the participants who also had cardiovascular disease, a known risk factor for dementia. The exact cause of this is not yet known. The researchers also do not know exactly which ingredient in the multivitamin pills is responsible for the positive effect on memory.
The researchers believe the study is the first evidence of the effect of vitamin pills on the brain in a long-term randomized controlled trial. This type of research is considered the gold standard for evaluating new treatments. However, other experts want to see more research before drawing a definitive conclusion.
That says, among others, professor Tara Spires-Jones of the Dementia Research Institute at the University of Edinburgh, who was not involved in the study. According to her, the research was well conducted, but she also points out that all those involved were white and highly educated, and that the results are therefore limited to one target group.
‘It is important to confirm that these results hold up in a wider population. It is also not clear from the study whether multivitamins can prevent diseases such as Alzheimer’s, which affect cognition. Several supplements have been tested as a treatment for Alzheimer’s and none have been shown to be effective so far,” she told The Guardian.