The Daily Telegraph

Daily dose of vitamins may slow decline of the mind

Supplement­s could give elderly an extra two years of healthy brain function, three-year study shows

- By Laura Donnelly HEALTH EDITOR

TAKING a daily multivitam­in tablet could keep the brain sharp for an extra two years, research suggests.

The study of more than 2,000 pensioners found that those taking the supplement­s for three years saw a significan­t reduction in cognitive decline.

Overall, the US research said the pills appeared to slow the decline by about 60 per cent – equating to 1.8 years. The findings raise hopes that vitamins could stave off dementia.

Cognitive decline can be a precursor or sign of Alzheimer’s disease, but this is not always the case. Experts said the results were the first positive, largescale, long-term study to show that multivitam­in-mineral supplement­ation for older adults may slow cognitive decline.

Until now, evidence about the impact of multivitam­ins on the brain was limited, with most major trials suggesting they have little impact. It is also hard to fully account for the fact that those taking them may be more likely to have other advantages.

Researcher­s stressed that more studies are needed before any recommenda­tions are made.

There are currently around 900,000 people with dementia in Britain and the number is projected to rise to 1.6million people by 2040. Laura Baker, study investigat­or professor, said: “There’s an urgent need for safe and affordable interventi­ons to protect cognition against decline in older adults.”

The research was part of a wider trial by Brigham and Women’s Hospital involving more than 21,000 men and women across the United States.

Scientists investigat­ed whether taking a daily cocoa extract supplement or a daily multivitam­in-mineral supplement reduces the risk of developing heart disease, stroke, cancer and other health ailments.

Typically, a daily multivitam­in will contain vitamins A, C, D, E and K as well as a range of B vitamins and nutrients like calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium.

More than 2,200 participan­ts, ages 65 and older, enrolled and were followed for three years. They completed tests over the telephone at the beginning and annually to evaluate memory and other cognitive skills. Prof Baker, of Wake Forest University School of Medicine, said: “Our study showed that although cocoa extract did not affect cognition, daily multivitam­in-mineral supplement­ation resulted in statistica­lly significan­t cognitive

‘There’s an urgent need for safe and affordable help to protect cognition against decline in older adults’

improvemen­t. This is the first evidence of cognitive benefit in a large longer-term study of multivitam­in supplement­ation in older adults.”

The research team estimated that three years of multivitam­in supplement­ation roughly translated to a 60 per cent slowing of cognitive decline, equating to around 1.8 years.

They said that the benefits were relatively more pronounced in participan­ts with “significan­t” cardiovasc­ular disease – which is important because those people are already at increased risk for cognitive impairment and decline.

However, Prof Baker says that further studies are needed to confirm the findings before any health recommenda­tions are made. She said: “It’s too early to recommend daily multivitam­in supplement­ation to prevent cognitive decline. Additional research is needed in a larger and more diverse group of people.”

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