Multivitamins are a pretty simple concept to understand. The idea is that, amid all that fast food and those less-than-perfect meals at home, a multi can fill nutrient gaps in diets. Even farmers—those kings of efficiency—know to provide a multi to their animals. The ol’ one-a-day is as American as apple pie. It’s why 58% of Americans take a multi, according to the Council for Responsible Nutrition.
A new study, the Cocoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study for the Mind (COSMOS-Mind), showed a multivitamin supplement appeared to slow cognitive aging by a quite significant 60 percent.
“The COSMOS-Mind study provides evidence that daily multivitamin consumption may benefit cognitive function in older men and women,” said Andrea Wong, Ph.D., senior vice president for scientific and regulatory affairs for the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) trade group. “This adds to the body of evidence showing promise for various roles of multivitamins in health.”
The multivitamin was provided by Haleon, a Pfizer-owned rebrand that supplies the Centrum brand. This is considered a fairly run-of-the-mill multi.
The COSMOS-Mind study, funded by the National institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health and published in Alzheimer & Dementia Journal, was an ancillary study to the COSMOS trial led by Brigham and Women’s Hospital that randomized 21,442 men and women across the U.S. The study investigated whether taking a daily cocoa extract supplement or a daily multivitamin-mineral supplement for three years reduces the risk of developing heart disease, stroke, cancer and other health outcomes.
In COSMOS-Mind, researchers looked at cognition—memory and other cognitive abilities—in older adults, ages 65 and older. Test tasks included word list and story recall, oral trail-making, verbal fluency, number span, digital ordering and cognitive status.
The participants using the multivitamin, relative to placebo, experienced a statistically significant benefit on global cognition. After three years of supplementation, the multi appeared to have slowed aging by 1.8 years, or by 60 percent.
This effect was most pronounced in participants with a history of cardiovascular disease. The multi benefits were also observed for memory and executive function—a set of mental skills that include working memory, flexible thinking and juggling multiple tasks.
The cocoa extract did not benefit cognition.
“Identifying a safe, affordable and accessible intervention to protect cognitive function against decline in older adults is a pressing public health priority,” said the researchers, based at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in North Carolina. “Cognition significantly benefited from three years of daily multivitamin-mineral use.”
Results suggested the multi benefits were more pronounced among older adults with cardiovascular disease—whose baseline cognition was lower compared to those without pre-existing cardio issues. This is important because cardio patients are already at increased risk for cognitive impairment and decline.
Cardio patients, the researchers noted, have greater incidence of deficiencies of vitamin C, D and K and selenium, plus certain pharmaceutical medications can reduce vitamin B12 absorption and bioavailability.
“The promising results of this clinical trial provides first-time evidence that dietary supplementation can be effective in helping older consumers protect and improve cognition,” said Duffy MacKay, vice president of dietary supplements at the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), a trade group representing makers of OTCs and supplements. “While there is no proven prevention or treatment for cognitive decline, we know that science grows in increments, and this study is one step toward reinforcing the beneficial role of a safe, accessible and affordable dietary supplement that can be used to optimize health through self-care.”
Other studies back up these results. For example, the Physicians’ Health Study II, a large-scale clinical trial, showed an 8% reduction in overall cancer risk in older male physicians—presumably among the most well-nourished of all population groups—who took a daily multivitamin as well as a significant decrease in cataract risk.
The Scientific Report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which informs the departments’ development of the 2020-25 dietary guidelines for Americans, noted Americans suffer from under-consumption in vitamins A, C, D, E, and K, calcium, magnesium, dietary fiber, choline and potassium.