The Washington Post

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)
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 Learn about age-related memory changes at (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.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments

Sign up for email updates from the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

You have signed up for the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

Thank you for signing up
You'll receive e-mail when new stories are published in this series.
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Close video player
Now Playing

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.