Can you improve your memory with multivitamins? On Mercola.com, Dr. Joseph Mercola explains the value of multivitamin supplementation to improved memory. He writes:
It was once a widely held belief that brain function was at its best during early adulthood and slowly declined as you age, leading to lapses in memory and brain fog. After all, who hasn’t walked into a room and forgotten exactly why they went there in the first place? A 2023 study1 demonstrated that older adults taking a multivitamin supplementation may experience memory improvements.
While it’s not uncommon to have difficulty recalling names and phone numbers, according to the Alzheimer’s Association,2 between 12% and 18% of people 60 years and older have mild cognitive impairment (MCI). This is the early stage of memory loss or loss of other cognitive abilities.
Older people must maintain memory and cognitive abilities to live independently. When asked, nearly 90% of Americans 50 and older wanted to stay at home as they age.3 Yet, the same survey also showed that very few of those asked were aware of how to safely maintain their independence.
Unfortunately, for many over the age of 50, they may say they’re having a “senior moment” when they can’t remember or forget something. Yet the truth is that the majority of memory issues people in that age group have are not related to age and aging. As the featured study finds, multivitamin supplementation may help reduce the challenges associated with short-term recall.
Multivitamin Supplements Were Effective in Older Adults
Using multivitamin supplementation has a history of controversy. The results in past studies have been mixed. Some have shown benefits and others show little to no changes. However, the 2023 study4 published by scientists from Harvard Medical School and Columbia University showed memory improvement and slowed cognitive decline.5
Data was gathered from the COcoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study Web (COSMOS-Web), which was an ancillary study of COSMOS. In this group of 3,562 older adults, participants either received a multivitamin supplement (Centrum Silver) or a placebo.6
The researchers identified the primary outcome measure as a change in episodic memory after one year of taking the vitamin. They identified secondary outcome measures as further changes over three years of follow-up. The participants were evaluated at baseline and each year using a battery of neuropsychological tests administered over the Internet.
The data showed that participants taking the multivitamin supplement had better immediate recall at the first year point, which was maintained during follow-up. However, the data did not show any significant effects on the secondary outcome measures. The researchers estimated that the effect of the intervention improved performance by “the equivalent of 3.1 years of age-related memory change.”
The COSMOS study7 was sponsored by Brigham and Women’s Hospital and included funding from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, Mars, Inc. and Pfizer, who supplied the multivitamin and placebo. According to the study writers, the companies were not involved in collecting or analyzing the data.
The goal of the COSMOS study was to evaluate cocoa extract supplementation with and without a standard multivitamin against the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and cancer. The larger study enrolled 21,442 participants8 and found the cocoa flavanol supplementation did not show a significant impact in reducing the total number of cardiovascular events.
However, the data did show cocoa reduced death from cardiovascular disease by 27%9 and had no significant effect on the total number of cancers.10 When the data was evaluated further, they also found daily multivitamins potentially reduced lung cancer by 38%.
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