How effective are multivitamins in slowing cognitive aging?

By 2060, nearly one in four Americans could face an increased risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease, as per the Alzheimer’s Association [1].

The Cocoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study (COSMOS) is a major initiative investigating the impact of cocoa extract and multivitamin supplements on cognitive function.

The study, recently published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, reveals significant and consistent benefits of a daily multivitamin in slowing cognitive aging.

COSMOS researchers conducted three separate studies on cognition, with the latest focusing on in-person assessments. The results confirm the substantial advantages of a daily multivitamin over a placebo, particularly in memory and overall cognition [2].

In the in-clinic study involving 573 participants, the multivitamin demonstrated a modest yet statistically significant benefit in global cognition over two years. Episodic memory also showed improvement, although executive function/attention did not.

A review of the three studies, each lasting two to three years, strengthened the evidence. The daily multivitamin was estimated to delay global cognitive aging by about two years compared to a placebo.

The COSMOS trial, led by JoAnn Manson and Howard Sesso from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, involves collaboration between institutions like MGH, BWH, Columbia University and Wake Forest University.

The trial employs diverse approaches, including traditional and innovative methods, to assess cognitive outcomes efficiently, with over 5,000 participants aged 60 and older residing throughout the US.

However, understanding the mechanisms behind these benefits becomes crucial. Howard Sesso, also a co-author, emphasizes the need to investigate factors like nutritional status and aging-related elements that might contribute to the protective effects observed.

The study provides compelling evidence that a daily multivitamin, containing over 20 essential micronutrients, could be a simple, safe and affordable strategy to support cognitive health in older adults [3].

Per the New York Times, Dr Hussein Yassine, an associate professor of neurology at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California said that: “Instead of concluding that everybody should be taking a multivitamin, I think we should possibly try to understand who benefits from taking the multivitamin,”

The focus now shifts to unraveling the mechanisms underpinning this protection against memory loss and cognitive decline, paving the way for more targeted interventions.

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/aging/publications/features/Alz-Greater-Risk.html
[2] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0002916523663427?via%3Dihub
[3] https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/18/well/live/multivitamin-memory-supplement.html

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