For this episode of Lifespan News, Ryan O’Shea discusses a study showing that taking multivitamins significantly improves human cognition.
Have you taken your vitamins today? If not, you may want to – a new study shows that multivitamins can boost brain function, and the results are even more impactful for people with a history of heart disease.
Multivitamins are among the most popular dietary supplements, but their effectiveness is often questioned. This new study, published in the journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia, offers some strong evidence in their favor.
Called the COcoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study of the Mind, or COSMOS-Mind, it consisted of a randomized, placebo-controlled trial that lasted three years and encompassed more than 2,000 participants.
This research was ancillary to a larger study that studied the effects of cocoa extract and multivitamins on cardiovascular and cancer outcomes. That work showed that multivitamin supplementation significantly reduced mortality from lung cancer, and that cocoa extract, which contains a lot of catechins and epicatechins, reduced mortality from cardiovascular disease. We produced a previous episode of Lifespan News on that, which you can find linked in the video description.
During COSMOS-Mind participants were split into four groups. One received cocoa extract, another received a multivitamin (in this case, commercially available Centrum Silver), a third received both cocoa extract and a multivitamin, and a fourth received only placebo.
Cognitive function was assessed yearly by a 50-minute-long phone interview, during which the participants were subjected to a battery of cognitive tests.
Participants taking only placebo actually did see an increase in their cognitive score – possibly due to their increasing familiarity with the tests. Interestingly, the results for participants taking cocoa extract did not differ significantly from those taking placebo. However, those taking a multivitamin did see a significant improvement.
People with a history of cardiovascular disease benefited even more from the multivitamin than the other participants.
The researchers calculated that by the end of the study, the participants who received multivitamins were on average 1.8 years cognitively “younger” than participants in the placebo group. In other words, multivitamin supplementation slowed cognitive aging by 60% and even more for people with histories of cardiovascular diseases.
While this was a large randomized, placebo-controlled, long-term study, it did have some limitations. The participants were predominantly white, and they self-reported their adherence to study protocols. There are certainly still to be questions regarding the utility of multivitamins, and even though cocoa extract did not show significant results in this study, it may still have benefits.
There’s more work to do – but if you haven’t taken your vitamins today, you may want to reconsider.
I’m Ryan O’Shea, and we’ll see you next time on Lifespan News!