Multivitamins May Boost Memory and Brain Health in Older Adults

Multivitamins May Boost Memory and Brain Health in Older Adults

What if you could boost your memory and slow cognitive aging with a single supplement? According to a major new study, you can.

Multivitamins are the most commonly used dietary supplements in the U.S., with 40 percent of those over the age of 60 taking them on a regular basis. They provide a useful route to obtaining the recommended daily amounts of essential vitamins and minerals, especially when an individual cannot meet these needs from their diet alone.

“Vitamins and minerals contribute to the maintenance of neuronal membranes, neurotransmitter release, and protection against oxidative stress, collectively supporting cognitive health,” Chirag Vyas, an instructor in psychiatry at Mass General Research Institute and Harvard Medical School, told Newsweek .

“Several vitamins and minerals are known to be essential for optimal brain function, and a deficiency of one or more of those micronutrients may accelerate cognitive aging,” Vyas, who is the study’s first author, said. “Many in the older population have deficiencies in one or more important micronutrients due to a variety of health reasons. Vitamin B12, vitamin D, lutein, and zinc are top candidates for better cognitive function, but there might be others or how they work together that are also important.” A stock image shows a woman holding a pill and a glass of water. Taking a daily multivitamin may help slow cognitive decline, scientists say. fizkes/Getty When it comes to cognitive aging, Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia in the United States, affecting roughly 5.8 million Americans, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The progressive condition is characterized by memory loss and cognitive decline in the regions of the brain involved in thought, memory and language. Therefore, finding daily habits that can slow this decline could significantly boost public health across America.


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To explore the benefits of supplementation on older adults, researchers at Mass General Brigham directed a large-scale, nationwide randomized controlled trial called the Cocoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study (COSMOS.) The trial involved more than 21,000 participants over the age of 60 and studied the effects of cocoa extract and multivitamins on cardiovascular health, cancer risk and cognition aging.

The COSMOS trial has already demonstrated in two separate studies that taking a daily multivitamin can have positive effects on cognitive health. This third study, published on January 18 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition , focuses on a subset group of 573 participants who underwent in-person cognitive assessments.

“Based on our combined analysis of three separate cognition studies within COSMOS, a daily multivitamin containing 20 or more micronutrients slowed cognitive aging by the equivalent of two years compared to placebo,” Vyas said. It is important to add here that multivitamins should not be taken as a substitute for a balanced diet but rather as a complement.

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“It is generally recommended to maintain a healthy diet to ensure getting a range of essential micronutrients,” Vyas said.

It is also possible to overdose on certain vitamins, particularly if you are pregnant or have a medical condition, so it is always best to speak to your doctor before starting any new supplements.

More research is required to identify exactly which vitamins and minerals may be responsible for the positive effects identified in the research and which groups of individuals might benefit most from supplementation, but the studies promise an effective, low-cost strategy for slowing the advance of cognitive aging in older adults.

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