It can also be a helpful tool in filling any potential nutrient gaps in your diet.
Multivitamins aren’t a miracle cure, but they can act as a “dietary insurance plan” to help you fill in the gaps in your eating habits. Especially if you have certain food allergies, dietary restrictions, or medical conditions that impact how and what you eat, taking a multivitamin may be crucial for individuals who are chronically deficient in key nutrients.
But this popular supplement may do more than just that. A new study found that daily multivitamin use may play a role in enhancing memory.
The study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, looked at data collected from over 3,500 older adults, ages 60 and older. The researchers randomly assigned participants with either a daily multivitamin supplement (they used Centrum Silver) or a placebo.
Participants were evaluated annually for three years with a series of online neuropsychological tests, but keep in mind that neither the study participants nor the researchers knew which type of pills participants were given.
At the end of the one-year mark, those taking the multivitamin had significantly better scores on a test evaluating immediate recall than the placebo group. This was also shown across the three-year follow-up mark. But interestingly, there were also improvements seen in individuals with heart disease.
At the start of the study, participants with a history of heart disease scored lower on memory tests compared to those without heart disease. But after just one year of taking a daily multi, individuals with a history of heart disease saw significant memory improvements compared to those without the disease.
But this isn’t the first time that multivitamin use has been associated with improved cognitive function. Results from another NIH-supported study published in 2022 found that daily multivitamin use improved measures of cognitive function in older adults ages 65 and up. Improvements were also more apparent in participants with a history of heart disease too.
Another study, published in Nutrients on June 9, also showed some compelling benefits of daily multivitamin supplementation. Although a smaller study, this research conducted by scientists at Oregon State University on healthy men ages 68 and older found that those taking a daily multivitamin (also Centrum Silver) over the course of six months saw significant improvements in nutrition biomarkers than those on a placebo.
What does a multivitamin do for your body?
Multivitamins are a type of supplement that typically contain a combination of vitamins and minerals, and sometimes other added functional ingredients. Brands get to determine how much and what types of vitamins, minerals, and other ingredients are put into their multivitamin product. But generally speaking, most multivitamins contain all or most vitamins and minerals in amounts close to what is recommended.
They are not designed to take the place of eating a variety of nourishing foods, since whole foods provide a package of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other beneficial compounds to support overall health. But even the healthiest diets packed with tons of fruits and vegetables may require supplementation of certain vitamins and minerals.
What should I look for in a multivitamin?
Since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve dietary supplements for safety and effectiveness prior to going to market, it’s incredibly important to thoroughly research each supplement you add to your regimen and speak with your healthcare provider before doing so. Look for options that have been tested for purity, potency, and safety by a credible third-party organization.
The bottom line: Emerging research suggests that daily multivitamin use may support memory, cognitive function, and nutrition biomarkers. While a multi shouldn’t take the place of a nutritious, balanced diet, it can be a tool to help you fill in any potential nutrient gaps. Look for high-quality options that have been third-party tested for purity, potency, and safety, since multivitamins and all supplements are not approved by the FDA before hitting store shelves.
Acknowledgements: Stefani Sassos Registered dietician and nutrition lab director.