How Multivitamins May Boost Memory and Cognition in Older Adults

A new study suggests that taking a daily multivitamin may help prevent memory loss and slow cognitive aging in people aged 60 and above. The study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, is part of a larger trial called COSMOS, which is testing the effects of cocoa extract and multivitamin supplements on various age-related diseases.

The researchers randomly assigned more than 21,000 older adults to either take a multivitamin or a placebo every day for two years. They also conducted cognitive tests on a subset of 573 participants who visited the clinic in person, as well as more than 5,000 participants who completed the tests over the phone or online.

How Multivitamins May Boost Memory and Cognition in Older Adults
How Multivitamins May Boost Memory and Cognition in Older Adults

The results showed that the multivitamin group had a slight but significant improvement in their memory and overall cognitive scores compared to the placebo group. The multivitamin group also had a lower rate of cognitive decline, equivalent to being about two to five years younger than their actual age.

Why Multivitamins May Benefit the Brain

The researchers speculated that multivitamins may have a positive effect on the brain by providing essential nutrients that may be lacking in the diet of older adults. Some of these nutrients, such as vitamin B12, folate, and zinc, are known to be involved in the production and maintenance of brain cells and neurotransmitters.

The researchers also noted that multivitamins may help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, which are both linked to cognitive impairment and neurodegeneration. In addition, multivitamins may interact with other factors, such as genetics, lifestyle, and environmental exposures, to influence brain health.

Limitations and Implications of the Study

The study had some limitations, such as the relatively short duration, the small sample size for the in-person tests, the lack of brain imaging or biomarkers, and the possibility of confounding variables. The researchers also cautioned that the benefits of multivitamins were modest and may not translate into meaningful differences in daily functioning or quality of life.

However, the study also had some strengths, such as the large and diverse population, the rigorous design, and the consistency of the findings across different cognitive assessments. The researchers suggested that multivitamins may be a safe, affordable, and accessible way to protect cognitive health in older adults, especially for those who have poor dietary intake or nutritional deficiencies.

The researchers also emphasized that multivitamins are not a substitute for a healthy diet and lifestyle, which are the best ways to prevent cognitive decline and dementia. They recommended that older adults consult with their doctors before taking any supplements, as some vitamins may have adverse effects or interactions with medications.

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