Multivitamin/multimineral supplements may support healthy aging in older men, according to the results of a recent placebo-controlled study conducted by investigators at Oregon State University (OSU) and published in the journal Nutrients. At 6 months, the cohort who received a multivitamin had better biomarkers of nutrition.
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“Many older adults take a multivitamin, thinking it will help them stay healthy,” said co-primary investigator Alexander Michels, a research associate at OSU’s Linus Pauling Institute, in a press release. “However, previous studies have shown mixed results when it comes to multivitamins and disease risk.”
Michels said his team was interested in uncovering some of the uncertainty associated with multivitamins and disease risk. In particular, they wanted to understand whether multivitamins were effective at changing nutrition biomarkers (e.g., white blood cell count, oxygen consumption) in older men.
To assess nutritional efficacy, Michels and 7 other OSU investigators conducted a 6-month placebo-controlled, double-blind study in a cohort of 35 healthy older men, aged 68 years and older. Investigators assigned half of the cohort to take a Centrum Silver supplement and the other half a placebo. Participants were not allowed to take any other supplements aside from clinician-prescribed vitamin D, if needed.
Prior to starting the supplement regimen, “many of these older men were not obtaining the optimal levels of several vitamins,” said lead investigator Tory Hagen, Helen P. Rumbel professor for Healthy Aging Research at the Linus Pauling Institute, in a press release. “So there certainly was room for improvement.”
After 6 months, many patients in the placebo cohort had lower levels of blood nutritional biomarkers, including vitamin and carotenoid levels, Hagen said in the press release. Carotenoids are a class of plant pigment (yellow, red, and orange) that are important for human health. Beta-carotene is a type of carotenoid that creates vitamin A.
The results of the study suggest that “food alone was not enough to keep their vitamin and carotenoid levels up,” Hagen said in the press release.
Men in the placebo cohort were also observed to have reduced cellular oxygen consumption in white blood cells compared to the supplement arm, according to Hagen. White blood cells are an important part of the body’s immune system.
The investigator also explained that oxygen consumption in white blood cells can predict cellular function. Thus, the findings may prove there is a link between vitamin status and white blood cell function.
“We are eager to explore [this] further,” Hagen said in the press release.
While multivitamins can benefit many older adults, Michels notes that the response still varied between individuals, although investigators suggest that the study will usher in a new era of multivitamin research.
Michels concludes that “knowing who benefits the most and why will be key for multivitamin trials that evaluate disease risk in the future.”
Oregon State University. Dietary supplementation shown to improve nutrition biomarkers in study of older men. News Release. June 14, 2023. Accessed on June 15, 2023. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/992613