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A daily multivitamin improves memory in the elderly

A daily multivitamin improves memory in the elderlyThe number of older people is constantly increasing, and more and more people suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. Apparently, seniors who take a daily multivitamin can improve their memory and slow down their cognitive decline, according to a meta-analysis that is published in Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Older people generally have increased need for certain vitamins and minerals because of poor nutrient absorption in the digestive system, impaired enzyme functions, oxidative stress, and regular use of medical drugs that can interact with the nutrients. But how do different vitamins and minerals affect brain health?

According to the American Alzheimer’s Association, one in four Americans will have a substantially increased age-related risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease by the year 2060. A similar tendency is expected in other parts of the world unless we take the right preventative measures. The authors behind the new meta-analysis have focused on a large American randomized, placebo-controlled study called COSMOS (Cocoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes) that tested the effect of daily supplementation with a multivitamin and cocoa extract. The study included 5,000 participants aged 60 years and older and lasted for 2-3 years. Two previously published COSMOS studies have already shown that daily multivitamin supplementation positively affects cognitive skills. However, cocoa extract did not appear to have any particular impact.
In a third follow-up study of 573 participants from the COSMOS study (COSMOS-Clinic), the scientists found a longer-lasting and statistically significant advantage of taking a daily multivitamin, with regard to memory and maintenance of cognitive skills. The main author, Chiraq Vyas, Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, says that cognitive decline is one of the major health problems among older people, but it appears that daily supplementation with more than 20 essential nutrients has the potential to counteract memory loss and age-related cognitive decline.

  • It is a problem that the symptoms of cognitive decline and dementia are insidious and are not normally associated with deficiencies of vitamins and minerals

How do multivitamins help preserve cognitive functions?

Vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients that are important for numerous functions in the body and brain. It is commonly known that B vitamins are important for cognitive functions. Lack of vitamin B12 alone is known to cause dementia-like symptoms and to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Moreover, vitamin B12, folic acid, and vitamin B6 are important for our ability to break down homocysteine. This function is vital because if blood levels of homocysteine become too high it can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and poor cerebral blood supply.
Multivitamins also contain other important antioxidants such as vitamins A, C, and E plus selenium and zinc. These antioxidants protect the brain’s nerve cells and other cells against damage caused by oxidative stress and free radicals.
Free radicals are generated as a natural byproduct of cellular energy metabolism. The free radical load is increased by ageing (due to impaired oxygen turnover). Also, the number of free radicals is increased by factors such as overweight, chronic disease, and poisoning, all of which automatically increases the need for antioxidant protection.
Our modern, refined and industrially processed diets are comparatively nutrient-depleted. There are other reasons why older people often lack essential nutrients. Many don’t eat all that much, they have poor nutrient absorption in the digestive system, and their enzyme processes are sluggish. This also affects their ability to convert vitamin D into its active form in the body. Furthermore, people living at northern latitudes only synthesize vitamin D in their skin during the spring and summer period. Finally, many older people take different types of medicine that can interact with the body’s utilization of different micronutrients.
Even if older people get enough calories, they often lack different nutrients that can otherwise prevent cognitive decline and dementia. However, daily supplementation with a high-quality multivitamin seems to have a protective effect.

Remember to get omega-3 fatty acids for the cognitive functions

The brain contains quite a lot of omega-3, a type of essential fatty acids that are important for our circulatory system and countless biochemical processes. They help regulate inflammatory processes that typically occur in connection with ageing and are known to set the stage for dementia. Besides taking a daily multivitamin it may be a good idea to increase your intake of omega-3 by stepping up your consumption of oily fish or taking a fish oil supplement, as this can lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.


Chirag M Vyas et al.  Effect of multivitamin-mineral supplementation versus placebo on cognitive function: results from the clinic subcohort of the COcoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study (COSMOS) randomized clinical trial and meta-analysis of 3 cognitive studies with. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2024

Mass General Brigham. Third major study finds evidence that daily multivitamin supplements improve memory and slow cognitive aging in older adults. ScienceDaily. 2024

Laura D. Baker et al. Effects of cocoa extract and a multivitamin on cognitive function: A randomized clinical trial. Alzheimer's & Dementia, 2022

A Ueno et al. Influences of Vitamin B12 Supplementation on Cognition and Homocysteine in Patients with Vitamin B12 Deficiency and Cognitive Impairment. Nutrients 2022

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