Adults who take a daily multivitamin have improved memory compared to those who take a placebo, according to a new study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Researchers from Columbia University, the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Harvard Medical School conducted a three-year study to track cognitive effects after taking a multivitamin daily compared to taking a placebo pill, the journal reported.
“Multivitamin supplementation shows promise as a safe and accessible approach to maintaining cognitive health in old age,” the study said.
The Associated Press said researchers followed about 3,500 people age 60 or older for three years, all randomly assigned to take the Centrum Silver multivitamin or a placebo pill.
CNN said participants were asked to learn 20 words through a computer program. They were given three seconds to study a word on the screen before another appeared and they were tested on the words they remembered immediately afterwards.
Adam Brickman, lead author of the study, told the AP that this exam “measures the function of the hippocampus, an area of the brain that controls learning and memory.”
“The study was retested at the end of the first year and found that people who took a daily multivitamin could remember, on average, almost one extra word compared to those who took a placebo,” CNN reported.
The AP said the cognitive difference between those taking the multivitamin versus the placebo pill amounted to “an improvement in memory equivalent to about three years of normal, age-related change.”
The improvement was stronger for participants with a history of cardiovascular disease, Brickman told CNN.
Time said these benefits were consistent throughout the study, but did not increase or extend to improving other cognitive functions such as reasoning.
A similar, earlier study found broader cognitive benefits for participants who took a daily multivitamin as opposed to taking a placebo.
Dr. JoAnn Manson, a professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, who researched both studies, told Time: “Cognitive aging based on these two separate studies.”
As for the findings of the two studies, Brickman told CNN, “We’re really excited about this replication because it gives a little bit more confidence in what we’re observing.”
Manson told Time, “Nutritional supplements are never a substitute for a healthy diet and lifestyle,” adding, “However, multivitamins can be a complementary approach, especially in middle age and older adults — some of whom develop problems absorbing nutrients and possibly less than optimal diets.”