Taking multivitamins may contribute to healthy aging, new research suggests. Similarly, dietary supplements can ease depressive symptoms in older patients.

In a Brazilian study, 80 elderly volunteers were randomly assigned to receive a multivitamin capsule or placebo daily for four weeks. The participants were all healthy and did not use other supplements or medication.

Taking the vitamin complex was found to "significantly decrease the levels of DNA damage" in lymphocytes, white blood cells that help protect the body against infections. "Our data suggest that the consumption of some vitamins may reduce the effects of oxidative DNA damage and may be useful for attaining healthy aging," said the researchers.

If multivitamins help healthy elderly people, oral nutritional supplements appear to make a difference among hospitalized, acutely ill older patients.

A study from the UK and United Arab Emirate focused on 225 such patients who received either a normal hospital diet and placebo daily for six weeks, or a normal hospital diet and 400 mL of oral nutritional supplements daily.

At the end of a six-month follow-up phase, patients who had received nutritional supplements showed significant improvements in depressive symptoms compared to placebo. The effects were evident among all patient groups including those with no symptoms of depression, mild depression and severe depression.

"Oral nutritional supplementation of hospitalized acutely ill older patients led to a statistically significant benefit on depressive symptoms," said the researchers.

Sources: Mech Ageing Dev, 2007 Aug 15; [Epub ahead of print]; Clin Nutr, 2007 Jul 25; [Epub ahead of print]

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