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If you're in this age range, taking a daily multivitamin may help your memory

If you're in this age range, taking a daily multivitamin may help your memory
sciencealert.com

Research Checks investigates the media coverage of recently published studies. One or more academics who are not involved in the study conduct the analysis, which is then checked for accuracy by another.


Isn't it our collective desire to mitigate the effects of memory loss as we get older?


A new study suggests that taking a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement is an easy and cheap way to help older people slow down some aspects of their memory loss.


The new study, which comes from a long-running clinical trial, shows that taking a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement for one kind of cognitive task—immediate word recall—in healthy elderly white people may have a small benefit. at least in the immediate future.


However, this does not necessitate purchasing multivitamins immediately. The study's findings are not applicable to the entire population or to all forms of memory function. The study also shows no long-term benefits.


How was the research conducted?

A well-designed double-blind randomized control trial is the overarching COSMOS study. This indicates that the participants were assigned at random to either the intervention (a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement) or the placebo (a dummy tablet), but neither the participants nor the researchers were aware of which supplement they were taking.


Researchers are able to compare a variety of outcomes in this type of study, which is regarded as the gold standard.


There was no history of heart attack, invasive cancer, stroke, or other serious illness among the 3,562 participants, who were over the age of 64 for women and 59 for men. During the trial, they were not permitted to use multivitamins, minerals, or cocoa extract, which they also tested.


At the beginning of the study (referred to as the "baseline"), participants took a series of online cognitive tests, of which only three were reported in this paper:

  • ModRey, which measures instant recall. Participants were shown a list of 20 words, one at a time, for three seconds each, and they were then required to type the list from memory using.
  • ModBent, which measured object recognition. Twenty shape-based prompts were given to participants, and they had to choose one from a pair of similar prompts. After that, they were presented with 40 shapes one at a time and were required to indicate whether or not each one was included in the initial 20
  • Flankers, which was a measurement of "executive control." In a matrix of arrows, participants had to choose a colored block that matched an arrow. This block could be in the same or a different direction as the prompt block and could be the same color as the surrounding arrows.


What were the researchers discoveries?

Only the immediate recall (ModRey) test, which the researchers carried out, showed a significant effect at one year, suggesting that the outcome is unlikely to be the result of chance alone.


The effect was no longer significant at two and three years, suggesting that it may have been accidental.


Yet another significant effect was added by averaging the results from all three years to produce an "overall estimate."


The reported effect sizes are all extremely small. The participants' immediate recall at one year had the greatest effect, with a value of 0.07, which is typically regarded as extremely small and unjustified.


Also worth noting: at one year, the multivitamin group had significantly higher immediate word recall scores than the placebo group, although the placebo group had lower scores.


In a previous study, the researchers referred to the rise in word recall scores as a "typical learning (practice) effect." This indicates that they attributed the higher scores at one point to test familiarity.


This "learning effect," in which the treatment group experienced a significantly greater increase than the placebo group, was not discussed for some reason in the current study.


What are the study's limitations?

An appropriate statistical analysis was used by the team. However, demographic factors like age, gender, race, and education level were not taken into account.


The main limitation of their study is well explained by the authors: It's hard to generalize because it used "mostly white participants," who had to know a lot about computers and, one could argue, would be pretty good at thinking.


The sample's advanced age is another unmentioned limitation; consequently, it is impossible to evaluate long-term outcomes for younger individuals.


Additionally, the sample's baseline diet score was appalling. Although the cited study stated that "the overall dietary quality... [was] poor," the researchers claim that the participants' diet scores "were consistent with averages from the US population."


Additionally, they did not measure changes in diet over the course of the three years, which may have affected the outcomes.


What should we make of the outcomes?

The sample's poor diet raises the following question: Can a healthier diet, as opposed to multivitamin and mineral supplements, be the simple solution?


In any event, for the impact they noticed, which micronutrient from the enhancement was the contributing element?


The scientists conjecture about the nutrients B12 and D. However, you can find research on mental capability for any fix with no obvious end goal in mind, including selenium, which can be harmful at significant levels.


Do I need to take a multivitamin, then?

Health professionals say that taking a multivitamin on a daily basis is unnecessary because you can get all the nutrients you need from a wide range of healthy foods. However, if a person lacks a particular nutrient, they may benefit from taking a supplement.


This study shows that well-functioning elderly white people might show some additional benefit from using a multivitamin supplement for one type of cognitive task. However, using a good-quality multivitamin at the recommended dose shouldn't hurt.


It is impossible to demonstrate the long-term benefits for younger people and the case for the majority of the rest of the population.


Clare Collins writes about a blind peer review:

I concur with the commentator's evaluation, which is a thorough scrutiny of the review. The main finding was that taking a daily multivitamin and mineral (or "multinutrient") supplement had a small effect on memory recall at one year (but not later time points). This is similar to the training effect, in which you get better at taking tests the more times you do them.


It's also important to note that the study's authors received funding and support from businesses.


Even though the authors of the study claim that they do not believe that the quality of the background diet had any effect on the outcomes, they did not fully evaluate this point. At the beginning, they only used a brief diet quality assessment score. During the course of the study, participants might have altered their eating habits, which could have an effect on the outcomes.


Given that all of the participants had low diet quality scores, it is important to see if providing the participants with the knowledge, abilities, and resources to eat healthier would have a greater impact on cognition than taking supplements. The Conversation with Senior Research Fellow, Biostatistics, Jacques Raubenheimer, University of Sydney

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