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Could a Daily Multivitamin Be Enough to Slow Cognitive Decline?

September 26, 2022

Taking a daily, over-the-counter multivitamin could improve cognition in older adults, according to a new study published in the Alzheimer’s Association journal.

But is it too early to celebrate?

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The research, which also showed daily multivitamin intake yields even greater health benefits in people with a history of cardiovascular disease, was based on observation of cognitive performance in two groups over three years. One group took a cocoa extract supplement daily; the other took a multivitamin. More than 2,200 people were included in the study.

Study results showed:

  • Multivitamin intake slowed cognitive aging by 1.8 years, or 60% compared with placebo.
  • Cocoa extract supplement intake had no effect on cognitive function.

The research team initially hypothesized that the cocoa supplement would have greater cognitive benefit based on earlier research showing its cardiovascular benefits. Seeing the performance of the multivitamin opens the door for additional studies into protection it might have against cognitive decline.

> Related: Older Adults, Check Your Pills: The Hidden Risks of Too Many Medications

What do the experts have to say?

Amy Sanders, MD, director of the Memory Care Center at Hartford HealthCare’s Ayer Neuroscience Institute, said research out of the Wake Forest University School of Medicine is “pretty preliminary.”

“Because a multivitamin contains more than a single compound, it feels to me as though any conclusions one might try to draw at this point are quite speculative,” Dr. Sanders noted, agreeing with the need for additional research into possible benefits.

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Most older people could benefit from multivitamins

One of the reasons she believes the multivitamin might have a positive impact on older people is because it provides important nutritional support.

“Older adults sometimes do not have optimal nutrition, meaning they could have one or more deficiencies. This is often why multivitamins are recommended in the first place,” Dr. Sanders said.

Choose your vitamins carefully

Dr. Sanders also noted that the composition of vitamins varies.

“Not all vitamins are created equal. Some can produce toxicities that can be permanent and painful. Some vitamins have already been studied and found wanting, such as vitamin E,” she said.

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