Slowing Cognitive Aging: Major Study Finds Daily Multivitamin Improves Memory in Older Adults

Woman Holding Vitamin Supplement Pill

A study involving over 3,500 older adults has found that daily multivitamin supplementation can slow down age-related memory decline. The effect was particularly strong among those with cardiovascular conditions. The research emphasizes the importance of good nutrition for brain health in aging, although supplements should not replace a balanced diet and medical advice should be sought before starting a regimen.

Taking a daily multivitamin may help slow age-related memory decline, a study has found.

Over 3,500 adults aged 60 and above participated in the study, taking either a daily multivitamin or a placebo for three years. The results showed that those on multivitamins experienced memory improvement equivalent to about three years of age-related memory decline.

Taking a daily multivitamin supplement can slow age-related memory decline, finds a large study led by researchers at Columbia University and Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard.

“Cognitive aging is a top health concern for older adults, and this study suggests that there may be a simple, inexpensive way to help older adults slow down memory decline,” says study leader Adam M. Brickman, PhD, professor of neuropsychology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Many older people take vitamins or dietary supplements under the assumption that they will help maintain general health. But studies that have tested whether they improve memory and brain function have been mixed, and very few large-scale, randomized trials have been done.

Study methods

In the current study, more than 3,500 adults (mostly non-Hispanic white) over age 60 were randomly assigned to take a daily multivitamin supplement or placebo for three years. At the end of each year, participants performed a series of online cognitive assessments at home designed to test memory function of the hippocampus, an area of the brain that is affected by normal aging. The COSMOS-Web study is part of a large clinical trial led by Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Harvard called the COcoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study (COSMOS).

By the end of the first year, memory improved for people taking a daily multivitamin, compared with those taking a placebo. The researchers estimate the improvement, which was sustained over the three-year study period, was equivalent to about three years of age-related memory decline. The effect was more pronounced in participants with underlying cardiovascular disease.

The results of the new study are consistent with another recent COSMOS study of more than 2,200 older adults that found that taking a daily multivitamin improved overall cognition, memory recall, and attention, effects that were also more pronounced in those with underlying cardiovascular disease.

“There is evidence that people with cardiovascular disease may have lower micronutrient levels that multivitamins may correct, but we don’t really know right now why the effect is stronger in this group,” says Brickman.

Good nutrition important for aging brain

Though the researchers did not look at whether any specific component of the multivitamin supplement was linked to the improvement in memory, the findings support growing evidence that nutrition is important for optimizing brain health as we age.

“Our study shows that the aging brain may be more sensitive to nutrition than we realized, though it may not be so important to find out which specific nutrient helps slow age-related cognitive decline,” says Lok-Kin Yeung, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher in Columbia’s Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain and first author of the study.

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

“Supplementation of any kind shouldn’t take the place of more holistic ways of getting the same micronutrients,” adds Brickman. “Though multivitamins are generally safe, people should always consult a physician before taking them.”

Reference: “Multivitamin supplementation improves memory in older adults: A randomized clinical trial” by Lok-Kin Yeung, Daniel M. Alschuler, Melanie Wall, Heike Luttmann-Gibson, Trisha Copeland, Christiane Hale, Richard P. Sloan, Howard D. Sesso, JoAnn E. Manson and Adam M. Brickman, 24 May 2023, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
DOI: 10.1016/j.ajcnut.2023.05.011

Authors: Lok-Kin Yeung (Columbia), Daniel M. Alschuler (New York State Psychiatric Institute), Melanie Wall (Columbia), Heike Luttman-Gibson (Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard), Trisha Copeland (Brigham and Women’s/Harvard), Richard P. Sloan (Columbia), Howard D. Sesso (Brigham and Women’s/Harvard), JoAnn E. Manson (Brigham and Women’s/Harvard), and Adam M. Brickman (Columbia).

Dr. Manson and Dr. Sesso are co-leaders of the parent COSMOS trial.

The study was supported by grants from Mars Edge, a segment of Mars Inc., and the National Institutes of Health (AG050657, AG071611, EY025623, and HL157665).

Multivitamins were supplied by Pfizer. Dr. Sesso reported receiving investigator-initiated grants from Pure Encapsulations and Pfizer and/or travel funds for lectures from the Council for Responsible Nutrition, BASF, NIH, and the American Society of Nutrition during the study.

3 Comments on "Slowing Cognitive Aging: Major Study Finds Daily Multivitamin Improves Memory in Older Adults"

  1. Ayurvedic Multivitamin Tablet | August 18, 2023 at 1:33 am | Reply

    Traditional Roots, Modern Results:This phrase could suggest that the product is rooted in ancient traditions while delivering contemporary health outcomes.

  2. Nancy Cunningham | December 31, 2023 at 9:26 am | Reply

    My mother was diagnosed with vascular dementia a couple years ago. It’s not been a pleasant experience. She’s mean and hateful, sarcastic and goes out of her way to be mean. Its like she doesnt have a filter. Just for the record, she

    was mean before she became ill. At least to me. My worry is, Am I going to get dementia like her?
    and be mean to everyone. Have no filter? What can I do now to prevent this from happening? As a general rule, I do my best to treat e everyone with kindness. Maybe I just need a psychologist? The info in this article gives me hope.

  3. Nancy Cunningham | December 31, 2023 at 9:28 am | Reply

    Please help me in ways I can change my diet and where do I find these things and how do I incorporate them into my diet. I’m not only worried for Mr, but my husband too.

Leave a comment

Email address is optional. If provided, your email will not be published or shared.