What Multivitamins Really Mean For Your Health – According To Experts

In the fight against dementia, there may be one simple weapon we’ve always had in our arsenal: take a daily multivitamin. New scientific research has suggested that a dietary supplement may prevent cognitive decline in people over 65, keeping their brains sharp for two more years.

The study of 2,200 men and women found that those who took a multivitamin every day slowed their aging by 60%, or 1.8 years. They had improved overall cognition, episodic memory and executive function, compared to those taking a placebo. Multivitamins contain vitamins A, C, D, E, K and B, minerals such as zinc, selenium and magnesium, and some antioxidants.

“We knew these supplements could benefit brain health, but no one had ever tested them in the way we proposed,” says study author Laura D Baker, professor of internal medicine, neurology and Public Health Sciences at Wake Forest University, North Carolina. “This amazing finding needs to be replicated in further studies, but if true, the treatment could be available to everyone around the world. Multivitamins are inexpensive and accessible.

According to YouGov, about half of us already take a supplement once a week or more and the supplement market is on the rise; it is expected to reach £559m in 2025.

Yet, for many years, the debate has raged over the use and effectiveness of supplements.

The only previous study of long-term multivitamin use, the Physicians Health Study II, which ran from 1997 to 2011, showed no particular protection against cognitive decline. Earlier this year, an editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association said: “People are wasting money thinking there must be a magic set of pills that will keep them healthy when we should all be taking evidence-based healthy eating practices. and exercise.

At present, the only recommendation the NHS makes for adults in general is to take 10 micrograms of vitamin D in autumn and winter. So why might these findings – published in Alzheimer’s and Dementia, the journal of the Alzheimer’s Association – change the approach of the medical community?

“The educated guess is that those over 65 have suboptimal micronutrient status for a variety of reasons,” says Baker. “We don’t absorb nutrients the same way we age. In general, in the United States, we eat a terrible diet of processed foods, carbohydrates, and saturated fats, but not a lot of nutrient-dense foods. The UK will face similar problems – not only are our diets increasingly transformed, but we face the same problems as we age: reduced ability to chew, loss of appetite, slowed metabolism and decreased production of stomach acid which helps break down food.

Research has shown that multivitamins particularly lead to improvements in people with cardiovascular disease. “Cardiovascular disease is consistently associated with more rapid cognitive decline,” says Baker. “The disease itself can deprive the body of micronutrients at a faster rate, so you need to consume more of them. Secondly, drugs alter the absorption of micronutrients.

“Our hypothesis is that regular multivitamin intake helped heart patients overcome some of their medical conditions.”

However, Baker cautions against further research, with a larger and more diverse group of participants needed before recommending that all midwives start taking supplements. “This study was carried out through a nationwide recruitment campaign by mail or media advertising that tends to recruit a certain type of person. We want to ensure that our sample is diverse in terms of gender, ethnicity, but also rural background.

The multivitamin involved in the research was Centrum Silver, containing the aforementioned broad-spectrum blend of vitamins and minerals, plus carotenoids, lutein and lycopene – antioxidants believed to protect the skin and eyes. This specific combination was not present in the doctors’ less optimistic study, and there are studies that support the effectiveness of the ingredients found in the formulation.

“There’s enough evidence to say, with the high doses of B vitamins and the addition of lutein and lycopene, that it’s a pretty decent mix,” says Baker. “You also have to consider the possibility that it’s not just one ingredient, it’s the combination.”

Nishtha Patel is a clinical nutritionist, who thinks adding B vitamins can be helpful. “A lack of B12 – vital for keeping red blood cells and nerves healthy – can give symptoms of dementia-like cognitive decline,” she says. “And if you’re on medication, that makes a difference in how the nutrients are assimilated.” For example, drugs such as metformin, which are used to treat type 2 diabetes, deplete vitamin B12.

“B vitamins have been extensively researched to maintain levels of the compound, homocysteine,” says Dr. Emma Derbyshire, public health nutritionist, Health & Food Supplements Information Service. Homocysteine ​​is an amino acid and high levels are a risk factor for heart disease. “If homocysteine ​​levels rise too much, for example, it can impact the health of blood vessels in the brain, with potential impact on blood flow,” says Derbyshire. “Vitamins may also act as antioxidants in the brain and reduce the risk of inflammation, which may increase the risk of poor brain health.”

However, warns Derbyshire: “Multivitamins are not intended to treat disease, they are intended to help fill nutritional gaps in the diet. In this current study, participants did not have dementia. It may be that micronutrient levels were low in these participants and that the intake of vitamins and minerals helped improve brain health.

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