Against degradation: A long-term study provides evidence that vitamins and trace elements can at least delay mental degradation in old age. / Vitamin cocktail against dementia?
Taking a vitamin cocktail daily for three years significantly improved memory and mental performance in elderly test subjects compared to a placebo group. On average, mental decline was delayed by 1.8 years during this period. However, further studies are still needed before vitamin intake can be generally recommended, emphasizes the team.
So far, Alzheimer’s and other dementia diseases of old age cannot be cured or stopped. Research on special active ingredients against the brain-damaging amyloid plaques has so far been mostly disappointing. Previous therapies can at best slow down the mental deterioration. A targeted supply of certain vitamins and trace elements to older people is also considered potentially helpful: Studies have found positive effects for individual vitamins such as vitamin D, the B vitamins or nutrient cocktails, but the results remain contradictory.
Vitamin cocktail against dementia: Cocktail of vitamins and minerals
Now the results of a larger, placebo-controlled long-term study are available for the first time: A team led by Laura Baker from Wake Forest University in North Carolina has examined over three years whether daily administration of a vitamin-mineral cocktail reduces mental decline in older people can stop or delay people. To begin with, around 2,000 men and women over the age of 65 completed a series of cognitive tests in which their memory and other mental abilities were queried.
For three years, some of the test subjects took a specially composed multivitamin preparation every day. This contained, among other things, vitamins A, D, E and K, various B vitamins, mineral trace elements as well as lutein and lycopene. Instead, the comparison group received a placebo preparation without active ingredients. All test persons completed the cognitive tests again at intervals of one year.
Mining slowed by 60 percent
The evaluations showed that the mental performance of the seniors who had consumed the vitamin cocktail every day decreased less than in the placebo group. “On average, three years of multivitamin administration slowed down the mental aging process by 60 percent – that corresponds to a delay of around 1.8 years,” report Baker and her colleagues. “This is the first evidence of such cognitive effects of multivitamin administration in a longer-term, placebo-controlled study in older people.”
The effect of the vitamin cocktail was particularly pronounced in seniors who were already suffering from cardiovascular diseases at the beginning of the long-term study. “The cocktail-treated individuals in this subgroup showed sustained increases in their cognitive functions, while the placebo portion of this subgroup showed mental decline from the first year,” the researchers report. In addition, cardiovascular patients have an increased risk of dementia and usually also have lower micronutrient values.
Warning against uncontrolled self-medication
But the research team warns older people against taking larger amounts of multivitamin preparations on their own. “It’s too early to recommend daily intake of vitamin cocktails on this basis,” Baker said. “While our preliminary results are promising, we need more investigations in larger and more diverse populations. Also, we have yet to understand why this multivitamin blend enhances mental performance in older people.”
The study also indicated that the positive effect of the vitamin cocktail lost momentum after two years: in the third year, the vitamin group still performed better than the placebo group, but cognitive performance also fell slightly away. “Until there is more data, people should talk to their treating physicians about the benefits and risks of taking a multivitamin,” said Maria Carrillo of the Alzheimer’s Association. (Alzheimer’s & Dementia, 2022; doi: 10.1002/alz.12767)