Research demonstrating the role of multivitamins in promoting health and preventing disease has been largely lacking, at least until now. There are no general health guidelines suggesting that the general public should take dietary supplements such as multivitamins. However, a new study showed promising results on the relationship between daily multivitamin and mineral supplementation and cognition in older adults.
This three-year, randomized, double-blind study was published this month in Alzheimer’s & Dementia found that taking a daily multivitamin may improve cognition and provide health benefits for people with a history of cardiovascular disease. In fact, those who took a multivitamin daily experienced 60 percent, or 1.8 years, slower cognitive aging compared to those who took a placebo during the study period.
Researchers believe there is an urgent need for preventive interventions and effective strategies to preserve cognitive function associated with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia. With Alzheimer’s and dementia affecting more than 46 million people worldwide, this is an important public health priority.
While this study alone may not change current dietary and medicinal practices, it is likely to spur further important studies into preventive interventions for cognitive health.
Certain B vitamins, vitamin D, choline, iron and iodine have a neuroprotective effect and can improve mental performance. At the same time, antioxidants like vitamins C, E, A, zinc, selenium, lutein, and zeaxanthin help protect against oxidative stress associated with mental decline. While a healthy, balanced diet can provide these nutrients, supplements, including multivitamins and minerals, can help fill nutritional gaps. A registered dietitian can help you determine if your diet pattern is missing important nutrients.
A variety of research emphasizes eating whole fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, fish, and olive oil for better cognitive function. It is evident that diet plays a very important role in cognition and brain health.
Here are some food tips to help support a healthy mind:
- Incorporate dark green leafy vegetables. Add these nutrient-dense vegetables like spinach, kale, broccoli, and collards to soups, stews, salads, and smoothies.
- Enjoy mixed berries regularly. High in polyphenols, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and others can be enjoyed fresh or frozen as a snack or incorporated into things like oatmeal or yogurt to reap their health benefits.
- Read the food label for added sugars. Stay away from products loaded with added sugars, which can be detrimental to cognitive health.
- Limit or avoid alcoholic beverages. Increasing your daily alcohol consumption from one drink to two has been linked to faster brain aging.
- Look for omega-3 fatty acids from oily fish, walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds and soybeans.
- Choose whole grains instead of refined grains. Oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat pasta, amaranth, and buckwheat contain more nutrients like vitamin E and support brain health.
- Add an egg. Eggs are high in choline and B vitamins, important nutrients that may help delay cognitive decline.
- Enjoy some dark chocolate. Cocoa flavonoids appear to be good for the brain by promoting the growth of neurons and blood vessels in areas of the brain responsible for memory and learning.
LeeAnn Weintraub, MPH, RD is a Registered Dietitian who provides nutritional advice and counseling to individuals, families and organizations. She can be reached by email at [email protected].