Adults who take vitamin and mineral supplements for almost a decade perform better on one type of memory test than those who don't take such supplements.
Some people - especially those who are deficient in vitamins and minerals - might get a memory benefit from boosting the nutrients in their diet. The question is, does the cognitive performance depend on the diet, or does the diet depend on the cognitive performance.
- It's possible that people who have better thinking and memory skills might pay closer attention to what they're eating.
- People took a daily supplement that included vitamins C and E, selenium, zinc, and beta-carotene for eight years. The others took a nutrient-free placebo pill each day.
- None of the participants knew whether they were taking the vitamin or the sham pills.
- When the eight years were up, researchers stopped giving participants their assigned pills, and they could choose on their own whether or not to take vitamin supplements.
- Six years after that, they brought them back to the lab for a round of memory tests. The tests included word and number problems to measure different types of memory and mental flexibility.
- It was found that while the supplement and placebo groups performed similarly on most tests, the nutrient-boosted participants beat their peers on one test of long-term memory in which participants had to recall words in different categories.
- The findings support a beneficial effect of a well-balanced intake of antioxidant nutrients at nutritional doses for maintaining cognitive performance, especially verbal memory.
- Most people could get the vitamin and nutrient doses used in the study through tweaks in their diet - for example, drinking fruit juice to get Vitamin C and using plant oil, which is a good source of Vitamin E. Taking supplements should be a last alternative.
- Vitamins and minerals are important for memory, but they're not the only thing that's important.
- The most important thing is eating a healthy diet, being active, and keeping your brain sharp.
- Although the findings suggest that getting enough nutrients could aid thinking and memory skills as people get older, further studies are, however, needed to confirm the results.