Vitamins may boost memory - study

2012-01-10 22:35

Sydney - Older adults who took vitamin B12 and folic acid supplements for two years had greater improvements on short- and long-term memory tests than adults who did not take the vitamins, according to an Australian study.

The benefits were modest but encouraging, said author Janine Walker, a researcher at Australian National University, of the study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

"[Vitamins] may have an important role in promoting healthy ageing and mental wellbeing, as well as sustaining good cognitive functioning for longer on a community-wide scale," said Walker in an e-mail.

The researchers asked more than 700 people aged 60 to 74 years to take a daily dose of folic acid and vitamin B12, or placebo pills that resembled the vitamins. The vitamin dose included 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid and 100mcg of vitamin B12, and participants didn't know which they were assigned to take.

The people taking part in the study showed signs of depression, but none had been diagnosed with clinical depression, the researchers said.

Modest improvement

"We felt that older people with elevated depressive symptoms were an important cohort to target given evidence that late-life depression is associated with increased risk of cognitive impairment," Walker said.

After 12 months, there seemed to be no difference between the groups in how well people scored on mental tests, including memory, attention and speed.

But after two years, those who took the vitamins showed more, if modest, improvement in their scores on the memory tasks.

For instance, on a short-term memory test, those who took the fake pills improved their score from about 5.2 to about 5.5 over two years. Those who took the vitamins increased their test scores from 5.16 to about 5.6.

Short-term memory is used to dial a number someone has just told you, while long-term memory comes into play when you try to call that number a day or week later.

It's not yet clear how taking vitamins might work to boost brain functioning, and not all studies have agreed on their benefits.

One idea is that the vitamins reduct the body's levels of a molecule called homocysteine, which is linked to cardiovascular disease and poor cognitive function.

The thinking goes that lowering homocysteine could perhaps reduce the cardiovascular risk, and in turn affect mental functioning.

Joshua Miller, a professor at the University of California, Davis, said it's difficult to translate the memory improvement on the tests into real life benefits, with some people likely having larger memory improvements and others much less.

"For any given individual, there may or may not be an effect," he said.

"But on a population level, a small increase in cognitive function can have very real ramifications on the functioning of the population as a whole, and on the costs of healthcare."

Further tests are needed, including whether other groups of people, especially those older than people in the new study, would also benefit from taking vitamins, Walker said.

  • Richard - 2012-01-11 06:38

    Vitamins may be healthy too.

  • Ian - 2012-01-11 11:14

    and surprisingly Vitamins are good for you!! hooray!! who would've guessed!! hahaha

  • ludlowdj - 2012-01-11 12:14

    Vitamins good for you!!........well I never, have you ever heard such a thing? Unfortunately most modern vitamins and supplements have a very poor absorption rates and you are literary pissing money down the drain to a large degree, however that being said it is hard to deny that taking vitamins on a regular basis is most definitely beneficial especially for people who have poor diets and of course the elderly. Modern growing methods as well as genetic tampering has over the years reduced the nutrient content of our food supplies and those that are able are advised to take a daily multivitamin supplement to replace vitamins used by the body.

  • Alex - 2012-01-23 21:03

    vitamin supplements that are synthetic do not provide all the co-factors or other nutrients necessary for your body to fully utilize that vitamin. In fact, since these co-factors are missing, your body will need to take them from somewhere else in order to make the synthetic vitamin work. This can create serious shortages, and may be why other problems often result. Because they do bring some much needed nutrients to your body, synthetic vitamins may cause you to feel better at first, but this will usually not last. When you take synthetic vitamins, especially if you are taking a high dose formula, this is seen by the body as more like taking a drug than taking a needed nutrient. This is probably why there are studies showing problems with taking high doses of certain vitamins (usually synthetic vitamins) like beta carotene causing cancer.

  • pages:
  • 1