The brain is a complicated organ that ties in with countless other systems of the body.
This perhaps most vital of all organs is comprised of some 86 billion neurons, which are messengers that transmit information to different areas of the brain using electrical impulses and chemical signals.
These neurons tend to stick around for the most part as we get older, believe it or not, but there is another aspect of neurons that presents quite a challenge in its own unique way: these specialized cells require a distinctive combination of nutrients to function properly, and the need doesn't diminish as we age.
In fact, the need for nutrients may become even more pronounced as we age, according to a new September 2022 study on cognitive decline in adults published in the journal Alzheimer's & Dementia.
The study, which was shared on the website MedicalNewsToday.com, shed light on the importance of one specific nutrition category that can help prevent cognitive decline as we age: the broad, sweeping nutritional benefits provided by a multivitamin worked far better than the renowned brain-boosting superfood, chocolate.
Research is still ongoing about the factors that play the biggest role in causing cognitive disorders like Alzheimer's Disease and other forms of dementia.
But in this case, the researchers agree: taking a multivitamin supplement is one of the best ways to stave off cognitive decline, even in comparison with one of the most renowned individual superfoods for brain function.
Multivitamins Superior to Chocolate for Cognitive Function, Study Finds
The researchers examined whether two popular nutrition-based healing agents could help stave off cognitive decline, which is a precursor to Alzheimer's Disease.
Their research focused on how taking a daily multivitamin-mineral (MVM) supplement or a daily cocoa (chocolate) extract supplement impacted cognitive function compared with a placebo.
Ultimately, the authors didn't find any improvements that come with taking cocoa, but they did find that taking a multivitamin-mineral supplement was associated with improved memory and executive function, as well as cognition, among adults who took a daily dose.
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Symptoms of Age-Related Cognitive Decline
Some of the symptoms of age-related cognitive decline include the following:
- Forgetting appointments
- Misplacing items or objects
- Reduced short-term memory
- Feeling overwhelmed by making plans
- Losing the ability to organize tasks
- Acting on impulse often
Aging causes many people to experience a general decline in working memory (a storage system in our brains that allows us to work with multiple pieces of information) and difficulties in multitasking.
These happen more often as we age, but a multivitamin-mineral supplement can help change this course, according to Dr. Austin Perlmutter, an internal medicine physician, author, and researcher.
"Researchers tend to agree that on the whole, aging is linked to alterations in cognitive function. What is arguably the most commonly discussed change in brain function associated with aging is a decline in long-term memory, where a general worsening of memory has sometimes been called part of 'normal aging." Perlmutter, noted that multivitamins can help stem the tide.
The clinical trial was of a randomized nature and included over 2,000 adults. Specific eligibility criteria were required to be in the study. For example, participants had to have no history of heart attacks and were not allowed to have allergies to cocoa products or caffeine.
A benchmark for participants' cognitive function was set up at the beginning of the study, comprised of their ability to recall events and memories (also known as episodic memory) as well as executive function.
These components were reassessed each year for three years.
Multivitamins came out on top, and participants with some form of cardiovascular disease saw the greatest benefits of all.
"Daily supplementation with a multivitamin shows the potential of improving (or protecting) cognitive abilities in older adults," said Dr. Laura Baker, professor of gerontology and geriatric medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, who recommended additional trials for a larger number of patients with cardiovascular diseases.
Multivitamins provide a clear benefit for cognitive function, according to Dr. Perlmutter, who offered his thoughts on the study, which can be viewed in full here.
"The positive correlation between the multivitamin consumption and cognition versus placebo is notable," he said, "and while the overall data on multivitamins has been less supportive of a clear net benefit in the general population, it does provide some support for the idea that ensuring adequate levels of key micronutrients may be helpful for longer-term brain health in aging populations, especially those with pre-existing vascular disease."
Not all multivitamins are created equal, of course.
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