April 16, 2024
Vitamins can make your brain 3 years younger, study says

Vitamins can make your brain 3 years younger, study says

If you’re getting more forgetful as you age — and who among us isn’t? — there are two things you can do about it this Memorial Day weekend.

Take a multivitamin. And go for a 30-minute walk.

Then keep both of those practices up.

So reports a peer-reviewed scientific study out last week, which found that regular vitamins and walks can slow or even reverse the effects of cognitive decline on the aging brain.

The average effect on the aging brain of a daily multivitamin is the equivalent of being a full three years younger, according to a study conducted by researchers at Columbia and Harvard medical schools and the New York State Psychiatric Institute.

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“We estimate that the effect of the multivitamin intervention improved memory performance above placebo by the equivalent of 3.1 years of age-related memory change,” the researchers report in the latest issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

This was based on a study of more than 3,500 senior citizens over three years. The participants were randomly assigned either to take a Centrum Silver multivitamin — Centrum is a Pfizer-owned PFE, -0.61% brand — or a placebo every day. They were subjected to various standard brain tests every year, such as tests requiring people to recall as many words as possible from a random list.

Researchers say the benefits were most pronounced in those with underlying heart disease.

The benefits of the daily vitamin showed up as early as the first annual exam, and persisted in the years afterward, the researchers said.

These findings confirm similar findings in a parallel study published last year, which found that a daily multivitamin benefited the whole brain, not just the memory. That study, too, found the effects were most pronounced among those with underlying heart disease.

Meanwhile another independent study, conducted at the University of Maryland, found that walking for 30 minutes three or four times a week also has a significant beneficial effect on the brains of older people.

The study involved 33 participants aged between the ages of 71 and 85 who exercised on a treadmill under supervision over a 12-week span. Verbal memory tests and MRI scans showed brain and memory benefits, even that quickly.

There are so many scientific studies coming out these days — on age-related cognitive decline and more generally — that it’s easy to become inured to them. But cognitive impairment and full-blown dementia are already pandemics way more extensive than COVID-19 even at its most acute stage. Alzheimer’s is currently killing over 6 million Americans (six times as many Americans as died with the coronavirus-borne disease), and the numbers are rising.

Key Words (July 2020): ‘It’s actually not that easy, but for me it was easy’: Trump describes his recent cognitive test: ‘Person. Woman. Man. Camera. TV.’

The Margin (July 2020): The doctor behind a cognitive test Trump took says ‘it’s supposed to be easy’

And scientific breakthroughs in terms of medical treatments, let alone cures, are scarce and expensive.

So it’s good news that there are things we can do on our own. These include not just taking vitamins and walking but eating the right foods, avoiding the wrong ones, studying, doing crosswords and meditating.

We can hardly do them all at once. But anything is better than nothing.

Next challenge for those of us getting older? Remember to take the multivitamin every morning. And remembering where we put them.

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