Researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston analyzed cognitive function in older adults who took a cocoa supplement, multivitamin or placebo daily for three years. (GetFocusStudio, Shutterstock)

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WINSTON-SALEM, NC – Taking a daily multivitamin may be linked to improved brain function in older adults, a new study suggests, and the benefits appear to be greater in people with cardiovascular disease.

The findings didn’t surprise the researchers — rather, they shocked them, said study author Laura Baker, MD, professor of gerontology and geriatric medicine at Wake Forest University in North Carolina.

“I have to use the word ‘shock,'” Baker said.

The researchers — from Wake Forest University School of Medicine in collaboration with Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston — analyzed cognitive function in older adults assigned to take a cocoa supplement containing flavonoids, a multivitamin, or a placebo. years. No one, not even the researchers, will know which routine was assigned until the results are revealed.

“In fact, we believe that cocoa extract may have some cognitive benefits based on previous reports of cardiovascular benefits. So we’re looking for that big reveal in our data analysis — and it’s not the cocoa extract that’s beneficial for cognition, but rather the multivitamin,” Baker said. “We are excited that our findings provide a new avenue for diagnosis—a simple, accessible, safe, and inexpensive intervention that may provide protection against cognitive decline.”

But she added that she and her team aren’t ready to recommend that older adults immediately add a daily multivitamin to their routine based on these results alone.

The findings were published on Wednesday Alzheimer’s and Dementia: Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, are not accurate and cannot be disclosed to the public. More research is needed to confirm them.

“It’s too soon to make these recommendations,” Baker said. “I feel like we need to do this in another study.”

Finding relationships in mental health

The new study included 2,262 people, 65 and older, who were enrolled between August 2016 and August 2017 and followed for three years. Participants completed telephone tests annually to assess their cognitive function. Among other tests, they scored on verbal fluency and numeracy and memorizing stories.

The researchers analyzed function based on test results among those who took daily cocoa extract compared to placebo and among those who took a daily multivitamin compared to placebo.

The researchers found that taking the multivitamin for three years reduced cognitive aging by 1.8 years, or 60%, compared to a placebo. Daily cocoa supplementation did not affect cognitive function for three years, the researchers wrote.

The study – supported by the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health – also found that multivitamins are beneficial for older adults with cardiovascular disease.

“It’s well known that people with cardiovascular disease can have low levels of vitamins and minerals in their blood. So supplementing with those vitamins and minerals can improve cardiovascular health and, in turn, cognitive health—and we know it. At the University of California, Los Angeles Dr. Keith Vossel, director of the Mary S. Easton Alzheimer’s Research and Care Center, says there is a strong connection between cardiovascular health and brain health.

Thanks to that link between cardiovascular and brain health, taking steps to prevent cardiovascular disease or other chronic diseases — such as eating a healthy diet and exercising — can also benefit the brain, said Vossel, who was not involved in the new study.

“If we can actually avoid or actually prevent chronic diseases, we can prevent dementia,” he said. “Up to 40% of dementia cases over the course of a lifetime are preventable with the best preventive measures.”

The specific factors driving this link between multivitamins and cognitive function are unclear and require more research, but Baker and her team think the findings may be related to the way multivitamins benefit people who are deficient in micronutrients like vitamin C and vitamin E. , magnesium or zinc.

“With aging, the situation can worsen. Many of our older adults do not have adequate nutrition for a number of reasons,” Baker said.

“As we age, we are more likely to develop health conditions that can affect micronutrient deficiencies,” she said. “The medications we take for these conditions can impair micronutrient adequacy by interfering with the body’s ability to absorb these essential nutrients from the diet.”

‘It’s been a while since we’ve been there.’

Other studies have had mixed results on the link between certain vitamins and supplements and dementia, Vossel cautioned.

“In this way, we have been a little bit earlier in research on vitamins and dementia. For many years, dementia specialists have seen some early promising results based on vitamin E and cognition, and especially in people with Alzheimer’s disease. But then, since then, the results have been mixed,” he said. Vossel said.

Older people should talk to their primary care physician before starting vitamins, he said.

“Supplementation is usually safe, but it must be carefully monitored, especially for those with memory loss, because taking too many vitamins can be very dangerous,” Vossel. “Vitamin E overdose or even high doses of vitamin E can increase the risk of bleeding. So those are some of the issues.”

Overall, the new study’s findings are encouraging, said Heather Snyder, vice president of medical and scientific communications for the Alzheimer’s Association.

“There’s definitely follow-up work we need to look at — especially independent validation in studies in larger, larger populations — but this is encouraging,” she said. “More research needs to be done to understand the potential benefits of multivitamins.”

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