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Can Multivitamins Improve Cognitive Aging?

Third major study finds evidence that daily multivitamin supplements improve memory and slow cognitive aging in older adults

Today I want to share with you an article published in Science Daily based upon a study referred to as The COSMOS trial

The trial results suggest that the daily consumption of multivitamin supplements improve memory and slow cognitive aging in older adults.

I think we have all been frustrated both in clinical settings as well as interacting with individuals in the general public that have the belief that taking supplements is a waste of money and that you can get all the nutrients you need from your food.

This is categorically not true! And it has been proven through the results of many published studies showing widespread nutrient deficiencies in the general population. Those of us that assess nutrient status in patients we work with know this as a fact.

Here are a couple of studies that demonstrate these widespread deficiencies:

National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2003-2006

A three-year study surveying the dietary habits of over 16,000 Americans has found that a large portion of the population consistently fails to meet even the minimal intakes recommended in the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for many key nutrients

Reviewed the average intake of 19 micronutrients in 16,110 individuals

Prevalence of Micronutrient Deficiency Study

Prevalence of micronutrient deficiency in popular diet plans published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition by Dr. Jayson B. Calton


Conclusion: These findings are significant and indicate that an individual following a popular diet plan as suggested, with food alone, has a high likelihood of becoming micronutrient deficient; a state shown to be scientifically linked to an increased risk for many dangerous and debilitating health conditions and diseases

So to now be able to add to these types of studies – and there are many more the fact that multi-vitamin/mineral supplement consumption can positively impact on brain function as we age makes for a very compelling argument.

Source: Mass General Brigham


Researchers tested the effects of a daily multivitamin on cognitive changes in a study of 573 participants with in-person visits in the COSMOS trial. The researchers also conducted a meta-analysis among over 5,000 non-overlapping participants across the three separate cognition studies within the COSMOS trial.

Results showed a statistically significant benefit for cognition among participants taking the multi-vitamin compared to placebo, suggesting that a multi-vitamin could help prevent memory loss and slow cognitive aging among older adults.


By 2060, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, nearly one in four Americans will be in an age bracket at elevated risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease unless interventions can help preserve cognitive function before deficits begin. The COcoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study (COSMOS) is a large-scale, nationwide, randomized trial rigorously testing cocoa extract and multivitamin supplements directed by researchers at Mass General Brigham. Two previously published studies of cognition in COSMOS suggested a positive effect for a daily multivitamin. COSMOS researchers now report the results of a third study of cognition in COSMOS, which focused on participants who underwent in-person assessments, together with the results of a combined analysis from the three separate studies. The results from this latest report confirm consistent and statistically significant benefits of a daily multivitamin versus placebo for both memory and global cognition. Results are published today in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

“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 first author Chirag Vyas, MBBS, MPH, instructor in investigation at the Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), a founding member of the Mass General Brigham healthcare system.

In the in-clinic study the researchers administered detailed, in-person cognitive assessments among 573 participants in the subset of COSMOS known as COSMOS-Clinic. Within COSMOS, two previous studies had tested multivitamin supplementation on cognition using telephone-based cognitive assessments (COSMOS-MIND) and online web-based cognitive assessments (COSMOS-Web). In their prespecified analyses of data from COSMOS-Clinic, investigators observed a modest benefit for the multivitamin, compared to placebo, on global cognition over two years. There was a statistically significant benefit of multivitamin supplementation for change in episodic memory, but not in executive function/attention.

The team also conducted a meta-analysis based on the three separate studies, with non-overlapping COSMOS participants (ranging 2-3 years in treatment duration), which showed strong evidence of benefits for both global cognition and episodic memory. The authors estimate that the daily multivitamin slowed global cognitive aging by the equivalent of two years compared to placebo.

Vyas said, “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.” Olivia Okereke, MD SM, senior author of the report and director of Geriatric Psychiatry at MGH, added “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.”

The overall COSMOS trial is led by JoAnn Manson, MD, DrPH, and Howard Sesso, ScD, MPH, both of Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), also a founding member of Mass General Brigham. Manson, co-author of the report and Chief of the Division of Preventive Medicine at BWH, commented: “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.”

The COSMOS consortium of cognitive studies represents a collaboration between MGH, BWH, Columbia University, and Wake Forest University, using both traditional and innovative approaches to assessing cognitive outcomes. These approaches allow large numbers of participants (>5,000 in total) to be included in cognitive studies in a high-quality and cost-efficient manner. COSMOS participants are aged 60 and older and reside throughout the U.S.

Sesso, also a co-author and the associate director of the BWH Division of Preventive Medicine, added: “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. 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.”


RELATED:   Beyond A Backup Plan: Why A Multi May Be More Important Than You Think.


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