Multivitamin shows brain boosting activity for elderly women

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Dietary supplement

Multivitamin shows brain boosting activity for elderly women
A daily multivitamin and mineral supplement with added herbal ingredients may boost performance accuracy and enhance neural efficiency in older women, 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 changes to the electrical activity in the brain, according to findings published in Physiology & Behavior​.

“Results from this study suggest that larger latency increases may be associated with greater improvements in accuracy,”​ wrote researchers led by Helen Macpherson from the Centre for Human Psychopharmacology at Swinburne University in Melbourne, Australia.

“These findings provide some evidence that multivitamin supplementation may influence cognition by enhancing neural efficiency.”

The study, funded by Swisse Vitamins Pty Ltd, supports previous findings from the same group​ for cognitive function.

Study details

Macpherson and her co-workers recruited 56 elderly women to participate in the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Participants were randomly assigned to receive the daily multivitamin or placebo for 16 weeks. Brain activity was measured using the steady state visually evoked potential (SSVEP) measure.

Data for 41 women was available for analysis, and results showed that, compared to placebo, the women in the multivitamin group displayed delayed SSVEP latency during retrieval during a spatial working memory delayed response task (DRT).

The results revealed that, when compared to placebo, multivitamin supplementation delayed SSVEP latency during retrieval, which the researchers interpreted as “potentially reflecting an increase in inhibitory processes in the brain”​.

These changes led to greater improvements in accuracy, said the researchers.


The researchers noted that, since the multivitamin contained a wide range of ingredients, the mechanisms of action can only be speculated.

The supplements did not affect markers of oxidative stress or inflammation, they said, but they did reduce levels of the amino acid homocysteine.

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 liter of serum had twice the risk of dementia.

The supplement also contained a mix of herbal ingredients, including G. biloba​ and B. monniera​. The former has been reported to inhibit the activity of the enzyme acetylcholinesterase, which may maintain levels of the neural transmitter acetylcholine.

B. monniera​ has been linked to memory enhancement, perhaps also linked to acetylcholine.

“Future trials identifying both multivitamin-related behavioural improvements, and changes to the SSVEP on the same cognitive measure, may be required to confirm this premise,” ​concluded the researchers.

Source: Physiology & Behavior
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2012.08.006
“Neurocognitive effects of multivitamin supplementation on the steady state visually evoked potential (SSVEP) measure of brain activity in elderly women”
Authors: H. Macpherson, R. Silberstein, A. Pipingas 

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