A new study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that taking a daily multivitamin supplement may help slow the normal forgetfulness that comes with aging.
The research, which analysed data from over 3,500 older participants, found that those who took a daily Centrum Silver pill over a three-year period had better memories than those who received a placebo treatment. The study’s co-author, Adam Brickman, described the effects as “very, very encouraging” and highlighted that cognitive change and memory loss are major concerns for older adults.
The study was conducted as part of the Cocoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study (COSMOS), a multiyear study investigating the effects of cocoa supplements and multivitamins on cognition, cancer risk, and cardiovascular events. The researchers followed a subset of 3,562 individuals who were randomly assigned to receive a multivitamin or a placebo. Memory tests were conducted at the beginning of the study, at one year, and at three years.
Compared to the placebo group, those taking the multivitamin performed significantly better on the memory test, equivalent to a 3.1-year improvement compared to the placebo.
This study replicates findings from a previous trial, COSMOS-Mind, which also showed cognitive benefits from taking multivitamins. It is uncommon for researchers to replicate the results of large studies, so this replication provides more confidence in the data. However, the researchers are still unsure which specific ingredient in the multivitamins drives the cognitive effects, and it remains to be seen if other brands of multivitamins would produce similar results.
While the effect observed in the study is relatively small, combining multivitamin supplementation with other lifestyle modifications known to reduce cognitive decline, such as exercise and following a Mediterranean diet, could lead to a larger combined impact. However, the study’s results may not be applicable to all individuals, as the participants were highly motivated individuals with at least a college education.
Dr Paul Newhouse, director of the Vanderbilt Center for Cognitive Medicine, suggests that longer studies are needed to determine the full benefits of multivitamin supplementation for cognitive decline prevention. He emphasizes that doctors should not currently prescribe multivitamins for this purpose but acknowledges that the study suggests they may be potentially beneficial and not harmful.
Dr Riddhi Patira from the Alzheimer’s Research Center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center adds that the follow-up period in the study might not be long enough to suggest multivitamins for a cognitive boost, as declines in healthy individuals with normal cognition are slow and may take years to detect.