Study asks: Do multivitamins help stave off cognitive problems in older men?


Research shows no improvement in cognitive ability in older men who take the supplements. (BIGSTOCK)
Multivitamins
At least for men, taking multivitamins doesn’t seem to benefit the brain

THE QUESTION Should people take a daily multivitamin to help prevent the memory loss and other cognitive issues that may accompany aging?

THIS STUDY involved 5,947 men, 65 and older (average age, 72), who were randomly assigned to take a multivitamin or a placebo daily. Over a 12-year span, all participants were given periodic cognitive assessments. By the end of the study, and at every assessment point during the study, virtually no difference was found in the average cognitive ability or rate of cognitive decline between men who were taking a multivitamin and those who were not.

WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? Men, who are among the estimated one-third of Americans, young and old, who take multivitamins regularly, often as a sort of insurance policy against chronic health problems, physical and mental. Research, however, is either lacking or generally does not support their use by people who are not vitamin-deficient. Doctors who wrote an editorial that accompanied the study warned that “supplements do not prevent chronic disease or death, their use is not justified, and they should be avoided.”

CAVEATS The study participants were all physicians and generally well nourished; it’s possible that multivitamins might have a different effect on less-healthy eaters. Different multivitamin doses or formulations may have yielded different results. Whether the findings apply to women was not tested. The study was funded in part by Pfizer, BASF and DSM Nutritional Products.

FIND THIS STUDY Dec. 17 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.

LEARN MORE ABOUT multivitamins at ods.od.nih.gov. Learn about age-related memory changes at nia.nih.gov/health (search for “forgetfulness”).

The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals. Nonetheless, conclusive evidence about a treatment's effectiveness is rarely found in a single study. Anyone considering changing or beginning treatment of any kind should consult with a physician.

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