Multivitamin helps seniors stay sharp

Researchers at Memorial University in Newfoundland wanted to determine if vitamins and trace minerals could influence cognitive function in healthy seniors. In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 86 men and women, 65 years or older, took either a multivitamin supplement or a placebo for one year. The researchers took blood tests at the outset and completion of the trial, and the participants underwent tests to measure short- and long-term memory, abstract thinking, problem-solving skills and attention.

At the end of the trial, the supplemented group showed a significant improvement in all cognitive tests, except long-term memory. The researchers feel this trial has considerable public health significance and recommend that the elderly be provided with a multivitamin supplement to improve cognitive function and quality of life.

In a second recent study at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, researchers wanted to find out if antioxidants could protect the brain from oxidative (free radical) damage and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. In their trial, 341 patients with Alzheimer’s were given either selegiline (an antioxidant drug), vitamin E, both selegiline and vitamin E, or a placebo for two years.

The researchers found that, though supplementation did not reverse the disease, it did slow the progression. The placebo group showed signs of severe Alzheimer’s by 440 days into the trial. However, both selegiline and vitamin E slowed the rate of progression to severe Alzheimer’s, to 655 and 670 days respectively. Therefore, vitamin E supplementation extended patients non-severe period by more than 50%.

Sources: Nutrition 2001 Sept;17(9):709-12; N Engl J Med 1997 Apr 24;336(17):1216-22