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Nutritional Neuroscience
An International Journal on Nutrition, Diet and Nervous System
Volume 22, 2019 - Issue 6
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Vitamin intake is associated with improved visuospatial and verbal semantic memory in middle-aged individuals

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Pages 401-408 | Published online: 03 Nov 2017


Objectives: Factors maintaining cognitive health are still largely unknown. In particular, the cognitive benefits associated with vitamin intake and vitamin supplementation are disputed. We investigated self-reported vitamin intake and serum vitamin levels with performance in cognitive factors sensitive to dementia progression in two large middle-aged general population cohorts.

Methods: Survey data were used to assess regular vitamin intake in 4400 NCDS 1958 and 1177 TwinsUK cohort members, and serum homocysteine and B vitamin levels were measured in 675 individuals from the TwinsUK study. Principal component analysis was applied to cognitive test performance from both cohorts resulting in two dementia-sensitive cognitive factors reflecting visuospatial associative memory and verbal semantic memory.

Results: In both cohorts, individuals who reported regular intake of vitamins, particularly B vitamins, showed significantly better performance in visuospatial associative memory and verbal semantic memory (P < 0.001). A significant association was also found between homocysteine levels, vitamin serum concentration and visuospatial associative memory performance which indicated that individuals with high B vitamin and homocysteine levels showed better visuospatial associative memory performance than individuals with low vitamin B levels (P < 0.05).

Discussion: The findings demonstrate that early dementia-sensitive cognitive changes can be identified in middle-aged asymptomatic individuals and that regular vitamin intake is associated with improved cognitive performance. These findings reinforce the potential cognitive benefits of regular vitamin intake, which should be considered as an economically viable therapeutic strategy for maintaining cognitive health.


The authors are grateful to both the NCDS 1958 birth cohort and the TwinsUK project for allowing access to their respective datasets. NCDS 1958 Sweep 8 was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and was collected by the National Centre for Social Research. NCDS 1958 Biomedical Survey was funded by the Medical Research Council and was collected by the Institute of Child Health, St George’s Hospital Medical School, and the National Centre for Social Research. TwinsUK is funded by the Wellcome Trust, Medical Research Council, European Union, the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)-funded BioResource, Clinical Research Facility and Biomedical Research Centre based at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in partnership with King’s College London.

Disclaimer statements

Contributors None.

Funding None.

Conflicts of interest The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Ethics approval None.

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