A daily multivitamin and mineral supplement with added herbal ingredients may boost memory in older women, but no effects were seen for other mental processes, suggest data from a randomized controlled trial from Australia.
Sixteen weeks of supplementation with the commercial product Swisse Women’s Ultivite 50+ containing vitamins, mineral, antioxidants, and plant extracts were associated with a significant improvement in spatial working memory, according to findings published in Psychopharmacology.
“Working memory represents an important component of fluid intelligence and growing evidence indicates that working memory may represent a cognitive domain which benefits preferentially from nutraceutical intervention,” wrote researchers led by Helen Macpherson from the NICM Collaborative Centre for Neurocognition at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne.
The study was funded by Swisse Vitamins Pty Ltd.
Cognitive performance declines naturally with age, and various nutritional approaches have been studied as a means of slowing this demand.
The new study looked at a complex mixture of vitamins, mineral, antioxidants, and plant extracts, and the Australian researchers note that, while levels of vitamin B6 and B12 increased, it was not clear if these individual components contributed to benefits to memory.
In addition to the B vitamin increases, a decrease in levels of the amino acid homocysteine was observed. Previously, epidemiological studies have reported that high levels of homocysteine are associated with suspected or confirmed dementia. Indeed, the Framingham study reported that people with homocysteine levels above 14 micromoles per litre of serum had twice the risk of dementia.
For the new study, the researchers recruited 56 community dwelling, elderly women with cognitive decline and randomly assigned them to receive either the Swisse Women's 50+ Ultivite supplement or placebo for 16 weeks.
Mental function, assessed using a battery of memory and attention tasks, indicated that improvements in response times were greater for women in the multivitamin group than the placebo group.
“These results may indicate that cognitive enhancements occurred either as a result of additive effects of the vitamin, mineral and herbal components, or through components of the multivitamin which were not measured,” wrote Macpherson and her co-workers.
“It is conceivable that by increasing these nutrients via dietary supplementation, there may be a beneficial effect on the function and integrity of the nervous system.”
In addition, no adverse events were reported, indicating that “this supplement was safe for everyday usage in the elderly”.
“To confirm these results, replication of this trial in a larger sample including elderly males is advisable,” wrote the researchers. “Future trials should examine alternate mechanisms of cognitive enhancement including a broader range of biochemical and cardiovascular parameters.”
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1007/s00213-011-2481-3
“Memory improvements in elderly women following 16 weeks treatment with a combined multivitamin, mineral and herbal supplement - A randomized controlled trial”
Authors: H. Macpherson, K.A. Ellis, A. Sali, A. Pipingas