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Effect of multivitamin and multimineral supplementation on cognitive function in men and women aged 65 years and over: a randomised controlled trial

Geraldine McNeill1*, Alison Avenell2, Marion K Campbell2, Jonathan A Cook2, Philip C Hannaford3, Mary M Kilonzo4, Anne C Milne2, Craig R Ramsay2, D Gwyn Seymour5, Audrey I Stephen2 and Luke D Vale24

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Environmental and Occupational Medicine, University of Aberdeen, Foresterhill, Aberdeen AB25 2ZD, UK

2 Health Services Research Unit, University of Aberdeen, Foresterhill, Aberdeen AB25 2ZD, UK

3 Department of General Practice and Primary Care, University of Aberdeen, Foresterhill, Aberdeen AB25 2ZD, UK

4 Health Economics Research Unit, University of Aberdeen, Foresterhill, Aberdeen AB25 2ZD, UK

5 Department of Medicine for the Elderly, University of Aberdeen, Foresterhill, Aberdeen AB25 2ZD, UK

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Nutrition Journal 2007, 6:10  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-6-10

Published: 2 May 2007

Abstract

Background

Observational studies have frequently reported an association between cognitive function and nutrition in later life but randomised trials of B vitamins and antioxidant supplements have mostly found no beneficial effect. We examined the effect of daily supplementation with 11 vitamins and 5 minerals on cognitive function in older adults to assess the possibility that this could help to prevent cognitive decline.

Methods

The study was carried out as part of a randomised double blind placebo controlled trial of micronutrient supplementation based in six primary care health centres in North East Scotland. 910 men and women aged 65 years and over living in the community were recruited and randomised: 456 to active treatment and 454 to placebo. The active treatment consisted of a single tablet containing eleven vitamins and five minerals in amounts ranging from 50–210 % of the UK Reference Nutrient Intake or matching placebo tablet taken daily for 12 months. Digit span forward and verbal fluency tests, which assess immediate memory and executive functioning respectively, were conducted at the start and end of the intervention period. Risk of micronutrient deficiency at baseline was assessed by a simple risk questionnaire.

Results

For digit span forward there was no evidence of an effect of supplements in all participants or in sub-groups defined by age or risk of deficiency. For verbal fluency there was no evidence of a beneficial effect in the whole study population but there was weak evidence for a beneficial effect of supplementation in the two pre-specified subgroups: in those aged 75 years and over (n 290; mean difference between supplemented and placebo groups 2.8 (95% CI -0.6, 6.2) units) and in those at increased risk of micronutrient deficiency assessed by the risk questionnaire (n 260; mean difference between supplemented and placebo groups 2.5 (95% CI -1.0, 6.1) units).

Conclusion

The results provide no evidence for a beneficial effect of daily multivitamin and multimineral supplements on these domains of cognitive function in community-living people over 65 years. However, the possibility of beneficial effects in older people and those at greater risk of nutritional deficiency deserves further attention.