Adults who take a multivitamin daily, compared to those taking a placebo, have improved memory, per a new study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Researchers from Columbia University, New York State Psychiatric Institute and Harvard Medical School conducted a three-year study to track the cognitive effects after taking a multivitamin daily, compared to taking a placebo pill, the journal reported.

“Multivitamin supplementation holds promise as a safe and accessible approach to maintaining cognitive health in older age,” the study said.

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Study details

The Associated Press said researchers tracked about 3,500 people ages 60 or over for three years, all randomly assigned to take the multivitamin Centrum Silver or a placebo pill.

CNN said participants were asked to learn 20 words through a computer program. They were given three seconds to study a word on the screen before another appeared and they were tested on the words they remembered immediately after.

Adam Brickman, lead author of the study, told AP that this exam “measured the function of the hippocampus, an area in the brain that controls learning and memory.”

“Retested at the end of the first year, the study found people who continued to take a daily multivitamin were able to remember, on average, nearly one extra word compared with those who took a placebo,” CNN reported.

AP said the cognitive difference between those who took the multivitamin versus the placebo pill amounted to “an improvement in memory equal to about three years of normal, age-related change.”

The improvement was stronger for participants with a history of cardiovascular disease, Brickman told CNN.

Time said these benefits were consistent throughout the course of the study, but did not increase or expand into improving other cognitive functions like reasoning.

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A similar, previous study found broader cognitive benefits for participants who took multivitamins daily as opposed to taking a placebo.

Dr. JoAnn Manson, professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School who was a researcher on both studies, told Time, “I think overall we are seeing benefits of multivitamins going beyond age-related memory loss into the slowing of global cognitive aging based on these two separate studies.”

Concerning findings from the two studies, Brickman told CNN, “We are very excited about this replication because it adds a bit more confidence in what we’re observing.”

Manson told Time, “Dietary supplements are never a substitute for a healthy diet and lifestyle,” adding “However, multivitamins can be a complementary approach, especially in midlife and among older adults — some of whom start having problems absorbing nutrients and may have less than optimal diets.”