21.04.2024

Simple habit backed by scientists to slash your mental age and boost your memory

Taking a multivitamin tablet every day could slash three years from your mental age when it comes to memory. A study of more than 3,500 people over the age of 60 gave around half a daily multivitamin for a year, while the rest took a dummy pill which would not have any health effects.

The volunteers all completed tests of their thinking skills before the study started, and again a year later.

Given a list of 20 words and asked to quickly type all those they could remember, people taking multivitamins recalled 7.81 words on average — just over 0.7 words more than they managed the previous year.

Those given the dummy pills managed only 7.65 words on average — up 0.44 words on the previous year.

A study of more than 3,500 people over the age of 60 gave around half a daily multivitamin for a year, while the rest took a dummy pill which would not have any health effects

A study of more than 3,500 people over the age of 60 gave around half a daily multivitamin for a year, while the rest took a dummy pill which would not have any health effects

While the findings raise hopes that people on multivitamins may be slightly better at remembering people’s names after hearing them, more research is needed, as previous studies have shown mixed results on whether vitamins improve people’s memories.

The study authors estimate that people on multivitamins showed memories typical of someone three years younger — based on their slight improvement in memory, which would normally have got worse over a year as they got older.

However the authors also admit that the effects were so small that people on multivitamins might see no noticeable difference in their memory.

People taking vitamins also did no better in tests of their longer-term memory, visual memory or executive function — the kind of thinking which helps with decision-making and organisation.

However Dr Adam Brickman, senior author of the study from Columbia University, said: ‘Among older people, losing memory and cognitive abilities is a top health concern and there are very few ways of addressing that.

‘Our study suggests multivitamins may have a small but meaningful effect, although more research is needed.’

The study, which used multivitamins provided by drug company Pfizer, concludes that people on multivitamins showed memory benefits equivalent to being around 3.1 years younger.

This was worked out using the difference between memory test results in people taking multivitamins and those taking dummy pills, over and above the expected decline in memory as people get older.

A multivitamin may work better for people with cardiovascular disease, who may be more deficient in vitamins, as this group saw a stronger improvement in memory, further analysis found.

But there was no significant improvement in memory in people taking multivitamins in the each of the two years after the first year, which suggests the supplements may have the biggest impact in a shorter time period.

There was also no significant link with longer-term memory, which was tested by asking people to recall the list of 20 words after a break of around 15 minutes.

Some experts believe a lack of nutrients may cause small alterations in the brain, which supplementing those vitamins can prevent.

But many experts say the best way to top up nutrients is through a varied and balanced diet.

The study is published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Dr Brickman said: ‘Though multivitamins are generally safe, people should always consult a physician before taking them.’

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