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The #1 Reason to Take a Multivitamin, Says New Science

Groundbreaking new research shows exciting results.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Taking a daily multivitamin could slow cognitive decline by 60% for people over 65, according to new research from Wake Forest University in North Carolina and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. "We provide the first evidence in a long-term, randomized controlled trial of older women and men that daily use of a safe, readily accessible, and low-cost multivitamin-mineral can improve cognition," the researchers wrote in Alzheimer's and Dementia, the Journal of the Alzheimer's Association. "This finding could have important public health implications for brain health and resilience against future cognitive decline." Here's what researchers discovered. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Cocoa Vs. Multivitamins

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Researchers wanted to compare the mental and cognitive benefits of either a daily cocoa extract or multivitamins with minerals on 2,262 people aged 65 and over. The three year trial used word lists, verbal fluency, story recall, and number problems to track the participants' "global cognition". Results showed that participants who had the most significant memory problems at the start of the trial showed the most improvement.


Cardiovascular Health and Dementia

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Results of the trial showed that while the cocoa supplements made no impact on cognitive function, the multivitamins appeared to improve cognitive scores—especially for those with cardiovascular disease, which is strongly linked to dementia. "It's well-known that those with cardiovascular risk factors could have lower levels in their blood of vitamins and minerals. So supplementing those vitamins and minerals could improve cardiovascular health and, by virtue of that, improve cognitive health — and we know that there's a strong connection between cardiovascular health and brain health," says Keith Vossel, MD, MSc, professor of neurology and director of the Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer's Research and Care at the University of California, Los Angeles.


Researchers Were "Shocked


"I have to use the word 'shocked.' We really believed that the cocoa extract was going to have some benefits for cognition based on prior reports of cardiovascular benefit," says Laura Baker, PhD, co-principal investigator on the Cosmos study at Wake Forest University. "So we're waiting for that big reveal in our data analysis — and it was not cocoa extract that benefited cognition but rather the multivitamin. We are excited because our findings have uncovered a new avenue for investigation — for a simple, accessible, safe, inexpensive intervention that could have the potential to provide a layer of protection against cognitive decline."


Promising Results


Researchers want to explore these findings further, and use a more varied group of people for future trials. "While these preliminary findings are promising, additional research is needed in a larger and more diverse group of people," says Dr. Baker. "Also, we still have work to do to better understand why the multivitamin might benefit cognition in older adults."


What's Next For Alzheimer's Research?

Portrait of stern looking doctor.

"This is the first positive, large-scale, long-term study to show that multivitamin-mineral supplementation for older adults may slow cognitive aging," says Dr Maria Carrillo, chief scientific officer at the Alzheimer's Association. "While the Alzheimer's Association is encouraged by these results, we are not ready to recommend widespread use of a multivitamin supplement to reduce risk of cognitive decline in older adults. Independent confirmatory studies are needed in larger, more diverse study populations. It is critical that future treatments and preventions are effective in all populations."


An "Urgent Need" For Treatment

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According to the CDC, 5.8 million Americans were living with Alzheimer's disease in 2020, and the number of people living with the disease doubles every 5 years beyond age 65. The agency estimated that 14 million people will have Alzheimer's by 2060. "There's an urgent need for safe and affordable interventions to protect cognition against decline in older adults," says Dr. Baker.

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more about Ferozan