Multivitamins are often maligned in the media as useless because of strategic smear campaigns, but many consumers know they provide a real benefit so their popularity remains high. New research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Columbia University shows daily multivitamin supplementation is able to improve memory and slow cognitive aging in older adults.
The COSMOS (COcoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study) study actually included two separate clinical trials (COSMOS-Web and COSMOS-Mind) that were designed to test multivitamin supplementation in relation to changes in cognitive function. These results from COSMOS-Web confirm what was found previously in the COSMOS-Mind research.
The comprehensive testing involved more than 3,500 participants aged 60 years and older and the results were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It showed that multivitamin use improved memory performance above the placebo by the equivalent of 3.1 years of age-related memory change.
"The findings that a daily multivitamin improved memory and slowed cognitive decline in two separate studies in the COSMOS randomized trial is remarkable, suggesting that multivitamin supplementation holds promise as a safe, accessible and affordable approach to protecting cognitive health in older adults," said co-author JoAnn Manson, MD, chief of the Brigham's Division of Preventive Medicine.
Howard Sesso, associate director of the Brigham's Division of Preventive Medicine, added, "With these two studies on cognition in hand for COSMOS, and more to come in COSMOS, it is critical to understand how a daily multivitamin may protect against memory loss and cognitive decline, and whether particular subgroups based on nutritional status or other factors may benefit more, or less."
Study participants completed web-based memory and cognition assessments annually over a three-year span. The results were measured against the baseline at the one-year mark and thereafter. The multivitamin users performed better than those in the placebo group and those benefits were sustained across the three-year follow-up period.
"Because of our innovative approach of assessing cognitive outcomes using internet-based tests, we were able to examine the effects of a multivitamin in thousands of study participants," said Adam Brickman, Ph.D., who co-led the COSMOS-Web study. "The findings are promising and certainly set the stage for important follow-up studies about the impact of multivitamin supplementation on cognition."
Columbia researcher Lok-Kin Yeung added. "Most older adults are worried about memory changes that occur with aging. Our study suggests that supplementation with multivitamins may be a simple and inexpensive way for older adults to slow down memory loss."