There are about 900,000 people with dementia in the UK and the number is expected to increase to 1.6 million by 2040.
According to a new study, taking a daily multivitamin tablet helps to keep those over the age of 65 mentally alert, and may also protect against dementia, which according to the NHS is a group of related symptoms associated with an ongoing decline in brain functioning.
Researchers have suggested that you could keep the brain sharp for an extra two years, by taking a daily multivitamin.
The study of more than 2,000 participants aged 65 and older, found that those taking the multivitamin supplement for three years saw a significant decrease in cognitive decline.
The participants completed tests over the telephone at the beginning and yearly with the aim of evaluating their memory and other cognitive skills.
The research was reportedly an ancillary study to the Cosmos trial led by Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Massachusetts, involving 21,000 men and women in America.
The trial studied whether taking a daily cocoa extract supplement or a daily multivitamin-mineral supplement reduced the risk of developing heart disease, stroke, cancer, and other health outcomes.
Professor Laura Baker, joint lead investigator of the report is reported to have said that cocoa extract is rich in compounds called flavanols, and previous research suggests the compounds may impact cognition in a positive way.
It is believed that flavonoids work by potentially improving blood flow to the brain and reducing inflammation.
“There’s also preliminary data that shows that cocoa flavanols were very beneficial for cardiovascular health,” she said.
The researchers studied whether cognition in older adults improved with the daily administration of cocoa extract, compared with a placebo, and a multivitamin-mineral, also compared with a placebo.
Baker, of Wake Forest University School of Medicine, states, “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.”
According to the researchers, three years of multivitamin supplementation roughly translated to a 60% slowing of cognitive decline, which equates to about 1.8 years, or almost two years.
The researchers reportedly said that the benefits were relatively more pronounced in the participants with “significant” cardiovascular disease — which was important because those people were already at increased risk of cognitive impairment and decline.
Baker states, “Anytime you can improve cardiovascular health, you improve cognition — they are intimately tied.”
However, “While these preliminary findings are promising, additional research is needed in a larger and more diverse group of people,” she said.
She adds, “It’s too early to recommend daily multivitamin supplementation to prevent cognitive decline.
“Also, we still have work to do to better understand why the multivitamin might benefit cognition in older adults.”
Baker is of the opinion that several micronutrients and minerals are required to support the normal body and brain function – deficiencies in older adults may increase the risk for cognitive decline and dementia, and that’s where the multivitamins may provide some level of protection.
Agreeing with Prof Baker and commenting on the research and findings that were published in the journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia, the chief science officer at the Alzheimer’s Association in the US, Maria C Carrillo, is quoted as saying, “This is the first positive, large-scale, long-term study to show that multivitamin-mineral supplementation for older adults may slow cognitive ageing.
“While the Alzheimer’s Association is encouraged by these results, we are not ready to recommend widespread use of a multivitamin supplement to reduce the risk of cognitive decline in older adults.
“Independent confirmatory studies are needed in larger, more diverse study populations,” she concludes.