In The News: Vitamins May Improve Your Long-Term Memory

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Your mother was right when she reminded you to always take your vitamins.  Not only are they valuable for your body’s general health, but they might sharpen your mind, as well. A recent French study has found that people who take vitamin and mineral supplements for a decade perform better on long-term memory tests than those who don’t, according to a report from Reuters Health.

The study followed 4,500 French men and women aged 45 to 60 years old over a period of 14 years. The participants were split into two groups and instructed to take a daily pill for the next eight years. Half of them took a supplement that included selenium, zinc, beta-carotene and vitamins C and E; the other half took a placebo pill. None of the participants were told which pill they had. 

You should always consult your doctor before starting a new vitamin regimen. Photo by Marshall Haze/Courtesy Flickr

After eight years, the researchers stopped giving the study participants the pills, instead of telling them they were free to take any supplements (or no supplements) as they chose. Six years after this, the participants were brought in to take a variety of memory tests.

On most memory mental flexibility tests, there was no difference in those who took the supplements for eight years and those who did not. However, there was one test that showed a clear distinction between the two groups. Participants who had taken the supplements performed better on long-term memory tests in which they had to recall words from different categories.

Researchers were unclear whether the vitamin supplements were directly linked to performing better on the long-term memory test. It’s more likely that these findings demonstrate the importance of a well-balanced nutritional intake for maintaining brain function and performance. So while vitamins and minerals may be important for maintaining your memory, the most important thing is to live a healthy lifestyle, including eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly and keeping your mind sharp and active.

There are several vitamins and minerals that are thought to be especially beneficial for the mind. While most vitamins require much more study before this can be confirmed, these supplements show the most promise for memory function:

• Omega-3 fatty acid
Ginkgo bilboa • Asian ginseng
• Huperzine A
• Acetyl-L-carnitine 
• Vitamin A

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