If you've heard multivitamins are pointless, Harvard-affiliated researchers suggest you think again thanks to fresh findings from longitudinal research.
The population is aging, with one in four Americans projected to be 65 years or older by 2060. This presents challenges across healthcare, and one particular concern is that this stage of life is when the greatest incidence of cognitive decline, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease are diagnosed.
Lifestyle choices and clinical interventions are continually being studied and tested for their roles in preventing issues with cognition. One such study has just published a final paper in a series that suggests a daily multivitamin might have a protective effect for individuals who are most likely to experience cognitive issues. In fact, at least one of the analyses saw an almost 60% slowdown in cognitive aging with the daily use of multivitamins.
COSMOS, which stands for the COcoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study, was a series of studies led by researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School, and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. This research involved more than 20,000 Americans aged 60 years and older to analyze the benefits of cocoa extract and multivitamins on heart disease, cancer, and other health issues.
The third study in the series was published on January 18, 2024, in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It took the previous research into account and added a study that included over 500 participants assigned to taking either a multivitamin or a placebo.
Examining the effects from over a two-year period, the final study found “that a daily multivitamin improved memory and slowed cognitive aging in three separate placebo-controlled studies,” said JoAnn Manson, MD, MPH, DrPH, a leader of the study and chief of the Division of Preventive Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
In a press release, researchers were impressed by the 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 the study’s first author, Chirag Vyas, MBBS, MPH, an instructor at Massachusetts General Hospital and a founding member of the Mass General Brigham healthcare system.
The final study’s finding on the role of a multivitamin supported two others in COSMOS, all of which showed that a multivitamin outperformed a placebo for cognitive protection. It provided “strong and consistent evidence that taking a daily multivitamin, containing more than 20 essential micronutrients, helps prevent memory loss and slow down cognitive aging,” Vyas commented.
If you’re looking to add a daily multivitamin, talk to your healthcare provider about which one is right for your needs.