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Multivitamins and minerals help children's brain function: study

By Stephen Daniells , 05-Nov-2008
Last updated on 05-Nov-2008 at 14:05 GMT

Daily supplements of multivitamins and minerals may improve the brain function of children, says a new study from British and Australian researchers.

Twelve weeks of supplementation with vitamins and minerals was found to boost the attention scores of children, according to results published in the British Journal of Nutrition.

“This represents the first observation of acute behavioural effects of vitamins/minerals in human subjects,” wrote the researchers, led by Professor David Kennedy from Northumbria University in Newcastle.

“Naturally, these observations require replication in larger cohorts, but they do suggest that this matter should be given some priority,” cautioned the researchers.

Study details

The Newcastle-based researchers, in collaboration with scientists from Swinburne University in Australia, and the University of Westminster in London, recruited 81 children (average age 11) to participate in the randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel groups investigation.

The children were reportedly all healthy and free from food allergy. In addition, none of the children used other dietary supplements during the three months prior to the study. Participants were randomly assigned to daily multivitamin and mineral supplements or placebo for 12 weeks. The study used Pharmaton SA’s Pharmaton Kiddi blend of multivitamins and minerals. The Swiss company also provided funding for the study.

Cognitive performance was measured using a battery of laboratory assessments. Measures were taken before the study, after one and three hours after the first dose, and after 12 weeks.

Kennedy and his co-workers report that the children in the vitamin/mineral group performed more accurately on two tests of attention. Indeed, the researchers noted the first signs of improvement only three hours after the first dose on the first day.

“The most surprising facet of the improvement in attention task performance seen here is that it became evident by three hours post-dose on the first day,” they wrote.

“To the best of our knowledge, the possibility that vitamins or minerals could exert behavioural effects after a single dose has not been explored,” they added.

However, no effects were observed on measures of the children’s mood, they added.

Science behind the claims?

The researchers noted that the study was aimed at testing the claims of the manufacturer that the multivitamin and mineral could improve the physical development and neural performance of the children.

“The combination of vitamins, minerals and amino acids present… in the present study does not allow the results presented to be attributed to any one component,” wrote the researchers.

“Further work in this area could examine the constituent parts of this treatment in more detail, perhaps focusing on attentional measures and including acute, as well as chronic, assessment,” they added.

Source: British Journal of Nutrition
November 2008, Volume 100, Pages 1086-1096, doi:10.1017/S0007114508959213
“Cognitive and mood effects in healthy children during 12 weeks' supplementation with multi-vitamin/minerals”
Authors: C.F. Haskell, A.B. Scholey, P.A. Jackson, J.M. Elliott, M.A. Defeyter, J. Greer, B.C. Robertson, T. Buchanan, B. Tiplady, D.O. Kennedy

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