Vitamins can make your brain ‘3 years younger,’ study says

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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.

Oh — and then keep both of them up.

So report peer-reviewed scientific studies out this week, which have 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 the study conducted by researchers at Columbia and Harvard medical schools and the New York State Psychiatric Institute.

“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 or a placebo every day. They were subjected to various standard brain tests every year, such 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 test, and persisted in 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 71 and 85, who exercised on a treadmill under supervision over 12 weeks. 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 as well as everything else—that it’s easy to become inured to them. But cognitive impairment, and full-blown dementia, are already pandemics way more extensive than Covid. Alzheimer’s is currently killing over 6 million Americans, and the numbers are rising.

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

Alzheimer’s is already killing six times as many Americans as all those who died with Covid, and the numbers are heading up.

So it’s good news that there are things we can do on our own. These include not just 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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