Do you really need to take a multivitamin? At Mercola.com, Dr. Joseph Mercola suggests the answer to that question is yes. He writes:
Food is your best source of nutrients, but with soil health declining and many people not eating an ideal diet, multivitamins may help address any gaps. This may be particularly true for adults age 60 and over. A large study on the effects of multivitamins and cognitive function found the supplements have the potential to improve memory.1
It’s the second study using data from the COcoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study Web (COSMOS-Web), which was an ancillary study of COSMOS, to link a daily multivitamin to better brain function. Separate research also linked multivitamins to improved cognition.2
“When we start seeing that kind of consistency across well-designed studies, it certainly helps convince me — the ultimate skeptic — that we’re on to something real,” professor Adam Brickman of Columbia University, who worked on the first study, told Insider. “… I started taking multivitamins the day we ran the analyses and saw the results, and I take ’em every morning.”3
Daily Multivitamin Gives Memory a Boost
Scientists from Harvard Medical School and Columbia University demonstrated that older adults taking a multivitamin supplementation may experience memory improvements.4 In this group of 3,562 older adults, including men over the age of 60 and women over 65, participants received either a multivitamin supplement or a placebo.
The participants were evaluated at baseline and each year using a battery of neuropsychological tests over a period of three years. Results showed that participants taking the multivitamin supplement had better immediate recall at the first year point, which was maintained during follow-up. Effects were most pronounced in people with cardiovascular disease.
“There is evidence that people with cardiovascular disease may have lower micronutrient levels that multivitamins may correct, but we don’t really know right now why the effect is stronger in this group,” Brickman said.5
The researchers estimated that taking a multivitamin improved performance by “the equivalent of 3.1 years of age-related memory change” compared to placebo6 and could not only help maintain cognitive functioning but potentially enhance it later in life. The team concluded:7
“Vitamin supplementation is relatively inexpensive, accessible, and has a few adverse effects, and thus might be a potentially useful population health intervention … Daily multivitamin supplementation, compared with placebo, improves memory in older adults. Multivitamin supplementation holds promise as a safe and accessible approach to maintaining cognitive health in older age.”
Multivitamins Offer Cognitive Benefits
A separate study involving 2,262 participants with a mean age of 73 tested whether cocoa extract versus placebo and a multivitamin supplement versus placebo improved cognition.8 In addition to taking the supplement, the participants took tests designed to evaluate memory and other cognitive functions when the study started and annually.
Significant benefits were found from the daily multivitamin, with three years of such supplementation translating to a 60% slowing of cognitive decline, which is equivalent to about 1.8 years.9
Improvements in global cognition, episodic memory and executive function were noted, with the effects again most pronounced in people with cardiovascular disease. According to the study, which was published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia:10
“COSMOS-Mind provides the first evidence from a large-scale, long-term, pragmatic RCT [randomized controlled trial] to suggest that daily use of a safe, readily accessible, and relatively low-cost MVM [multivitamin-mineral] supplement has the potential to improve or protect cognitive function for older women and men.
An additional trial is needed to confirm these findings in a more representative cohort and to explore potential mechanisms for cognitive benefit. This work may ultimately have important public health implications for standard of care to improve or protect cognitive function in older adults.”
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