Can a Multivitamin a Day Keep the Brain Fog Away?

By Michael A. Smith, MD

My sister is concerned about her memory. Here’s an amusing story that you can probably relate to: She wanted to call me last weekend for some nutritional advice to help boost her memory, but she couldn’t remember where she left her cell phone or my phone number. Sound familiar?

Maybe there’s hope for my sister after all. French researchers1 say they've found a definite link between vitamins and cognitive performance in 4,447 men and women between the ages of 45 and 60. Dr. Emmanuelle Kesse-Guyot of the University of Paris concluded this from the study: “Vitamins and minerals are important for memory.” She also added, however, that they aren’t as important as diet and exercise. We agree.

Multivitamins Can Help Clear Mental Cobwebs

The study participants were randomized into two groups. One group received a daily multivitamin while the other group received a placebo. The subjects were followed closely for eight years — meaning the researchers actually counted pills for each participant to ensure high compliance. After those eight years, the researchers stopped counting pills and left it up to the subjects to remain compliant. The study continued an additional six years.

At the end of the study (14 years total), the subjects underwent the same memory tests they did at the beginning of the study. The researchers then tabulated the results and here’s what they found.1

  • Both groups scored about the same with short-term memory although the multivitamin group did slightly better.
  • The multivitamin group performed far better on long-term memory tests than the placebo group.

Important Points to Consider

The researchers involved in the study were quick to caution against overreaching conclusions. “Our results have to be considered carefully,” wrote the authors of the final report, which was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Higher cognitive performance may indeed be based on a better diet; however, it may also be that people who have better thinking skills adhere to better eating habits as well, which may include taking vitamin supplements. At this point, it is hard to tell which one is the proverbial chicken and which one is the egg.

What You Need to Know

Brain health depends on how well you preserve nerve cell structure and communication connections as you age. This suggests two things: First, increase the amount of antioxidants in your regimen since oxidative stress is detrimental to nerve cell structure. Second, consider taking magnesium threonate, a form of the mineral that gets into the brain and supports your critical nerve cells connections.2 If nerve cell connections fail, memory and recall become more and more difficult.

Have you noticed any improvements in your own memory since you’ve been taking a multivitamin? Please let us know about it!


  1. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Sep;94(3):892-9.
  2. Neuron. 2010 Jan 28;65(2):165-77.


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