Multivitamins may counter age-related memory loss: study


May 25, 2023 | 5:56 PM

Forget forgetfulness with one daily habit.

Memory loss associated with aging may be curbed by taking multivitamins regularly, a new study suggests.

Findings from the COSMOS-Web study, published Wednesday in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggest a link between daily use of multivitamin supplements and slowing the cognitive decline associated with aging.

“Cognitive aging is a top health concern for older adults, and this study suggests there may be a simple, low-cost way to help older adults slow down memory loss,” said study leader Dr. Adam Brickman in a statement.

Led by Columbia University’s professor of neuropsychology, the research team analyzed 3,562 older adults who were randomly given either a multivitamin supplement or a placebo.

The COSMOS-Web study is the latest research in a larger clinical trial.
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The participants, aged 60 and older, were observed for three years and completed an annual cognitive assessment to determine how the supplements – or lack thereof – affected the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory and is affected during aging.

Compared to the group taking the placebo, participants taking multivitamin supplements performed better on memory tests after the first year, maintaining results throughout the three-year study.

The improvement was estimated to be equivalent to about three years of amnesia.

“Our study shows that the aging brain may be more sensitive to nutrition than we realized, although it may not be as important to figure out which specific nutrient helps slow age-related cognitive decline,” study author and postdoctoral researcher Dr. Lok-Kin Yeung said.

The supplements were more effective in people with underlying cardiovascular disease, researchers said, though they couldn’t explain why.

“There is some evidence that people with cardiovascular disease may have lower levels of micronutrients that multivitamins can correct, but we don’t really know at this point why the effect is stronger in this group,” Brickman said.

The study authors suggested that multivitamins might play a role in reducing the memory loss associated with age.
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The COSMOS-Web study is part of a larger clinical trial, the COcoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study (COSMOS), led by Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, a teaching hospital affiliated with Harvard Medical School.

The most recent findings bolster last year’s COSMOS-Mind study of more than 2,000 older adults, which found that their cognition, memory recall and attention generally improved with multivitamins.

“The finding that a daily multivitamin improved memory in two separate cognition studies in the COSMOS randomized trial is noteworthy, suggesting that multivitamin supplementation holds promise as a safe, accessible and affordable approach to protect cognitive health in older adults,” co said. author of the study. Dr. JoAnn Manson, chief of the Department of Preventive Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

But experts have given mixed reviews about the effectiveness and safety of multivitamins in recent years.

“Supplementation of any kind should not replace more holistic ways of getting the same micronutrients,” said Brickman. “While multivitamins are generally safe, people should always consult a doctor before taking them.”

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