Dementia: Multivitamins delay memory loss by 2 years

dementia multivitamin

A major study reveals the unexpected benefits of a multivitamin in boosting brain function and protecting memory.

New research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that taking a daily multivitamin could significantly help slow brain aging and help prevent or delay dementia, renewing interest in a long debate about the effectiveness of multivitamins.

Although several studies have questioned the role of multivitamins in health, the latest research used unprecedented tools to reach safe conclusions.

The findings came from a study conducted by the team at the nonprofit Mass General Brigham Health Care System, analysing data from the extensive COcoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study (COSMOS), which includes a detailed analysis of the cognitive functions of 21,442 Americans aged 60 and older.

In particular, the researchers performed a meta-analysis of three studies, which included more than 5,000 participants. The study focused on episodic memory and the ability to recall personal experiences and events, an essential aspect of cognitive health that often deteriorates with age, leveraging for the first time in-person, comprehensive neuropsychological assessments to capture subtle changes in multiple cognitive domains.

The results were impressive. Over two years, participants who took daily multivitamins showed a significantly more favourable change in episodic memory than those who took a placebo.

In addition, the study authors estimate that multivitamin use may have slowed cognitive aging by two years. However, no significant effect was observed on executive function or attention.

"Cognitive decline is among the top health concerns for most older adults, and a daily supplement of multivitamins has the potential as an appealing and accessible approach to slow cognitive aging," said lead author Chirag Vyas, MBBS, MPH, an investigator in the Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).

"The meta-analysis of three separate cognition studies provides strong and consistent evidence that taking a daily multivitamin, containing more than 20 essential micronutrients, helps prevent memory loss and slow cognitive aging," he added.

The value of the findings is heightened given the aging population worldwide, with the researchers stressing that a simple, affordable intervention such as a daily multivitamin supplement could have significant public health implications, potentially delaying the onset of cognitive decline and related conditions.

Experts point out, however, that the degree of effectiveness varies among people, stressing that supplements should not replace a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle but could be considered a complementary strategy for the cognitive health of older adults.

Howard Sesso, also a co-author and the associate director of the BWH Division of Preventive Medicine, added: “With these three studies using different approaches for assessing cognition in COSMOS, each providing support for a daily multivitamin, it is now critical to understand the mechanisms by which a daily multivitamin may protect against memory loss and cognitive decline with a focus on nutritional status and other aging-related factors. For example, the modifying role of baseline nutritional status in protecting against cognitive decline has been shown for the COSMOS cocoa extract intervention. A typical multivitamin such as that tested in COSMOS contains many essential vitamins and minerals that could explain its potential benefits.”

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