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Daily multivitamins slow cognitive aging and improve memory

A series of studies has revealed that daily multivitamins could play a crucial role in improving memory and slowing cognitive aging in older adults. 

This revelation comes at a critical time, as the Alzheimer’s Association predicts that by 2060, nearly a quarter of Americans will be at an increased risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.

COSMOS trials

The COcoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study (COSMOS), led by experts at Mass General Brigham, has been at the forefront of this research. COSMOS is a comprehensive, nationwide trial that examines the effects of cocoa extract and multivitamin supplements.

Significantly, this is the third study from COSMOS to indicate the positive impact of daily multivitamins on cognition. The results revealed consistent benefits for memory as well.

Cognitive decline 

Chirag Vyas, the study’s first author and an instructor in the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Psychiatry, emphasized the importance of these findings.

“Cognitive decline is among the top health concerns for most older adults, and a daily supplement of multivitamins has the potential as an appealing and accessible approach to slow cognitive aging,” said Vyas.

Focus of the study 

The latest study involved detailed, in-person cognitive assessments of 573 participants, known as the COSMOS-Clinic subset. 

In conjunction with two earlier studies that utilized telephone-based and online web-based cognitive assessments, the researchers found modest benefits for global cognition over two years, with a significant impact on episodic memory.

Strong evidence 

A meta-analysis combining data from all three studies, with 5,000 non-overlapping COSMOS participants, revealed strong evidence of benefits for both global cognition and episodic memory. The researchers estimated that daily multivitamin usage could slow global cognitive aging by as much as two years.

“The meta-analysis of three separate cognition studies provides strong and consistent evidence that taking a daily multivitamin, containing more than 20 essential micronutrients, helps prevent memory loss and slow down cognitive aging,” said Vyas.

Study significance 

Senior author Dr. Olivia Okereke highlighted the significance of the research for older adults concerned about brain health. 

“These findings will garner attention among many older adults who are, understandably, very interested in ways to preserve brain health, as they provide evidence for the role of a daily multivitamin in supporting better cognitive aging,” said Dr. Okereke.

Exciting results

The overall COSMOS project is led by Dr. JoAnn Manson and Howard Sesso, both of Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH).  

“The finding that a daily multivitamin improved memory and slowed cognitive aging in three separate placebo-controlled studies in COSMOS is exciting and further supports the promise of multivitamins as a safe, accessible and affordable approach to protecting cognitive health in older adults,” said Dr. Manson.

Future research 

“With these three studies using different approaches for assessing cognition in COSMOS, each providing support for a daily multivitamin, it is now critical to understand the mechanisms by which a daily multivitamin may protect against memory loss and cognitive decline with a focus on nutritional status and other aging-related factors,” said Sesso.

“For example, the modifying role of baseline nutritional status on protecting against cognitive decline has been shown for the COSMOS cocoa extract intervention. A typical multivitamin such as that tested in COSMOS contains many essential vitamins and minerals that could explain its potential benefits.”

The study is published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

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