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Could preventing memory loss and staying cognitively sharp as we age be as simple as popping a pill?
That’s what a series of studies is showing us.
The pill? A simple daily multivitamin.
At age 67, this one is making me sit up and pay attention. If you’re at all concerned with keeping your cognitive abilities as you get older, you’ll want to take note…
Multivitamins improve memory outcomes
The Cocoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study (COSMOS) is a large-scale nationwide randomized trial conducted by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
COSMOS has previously reported that a study from 2022, using different memory tests, also found daily multivitamin supplements, compared to placebo, improved memory among participants.
And those findings have been backed up in a second COSMOS trial including more than 3,500 participants aged 60 and older.
Participants completed web-based assessments of memory and cognition annually for a period of three years. At year one, those randomly assigned to take a multivitamin did significantly better on memory tests.
Overall, the researchers estimate that taking a multivitamin improved memory performance by the equivalent of 3.1 years, compared to the placebo group.
“The findings that a daily multivitamin improved memory and slowed cognitive decline in two separate 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 Dr. JoAnn Manson, chief of the Brigham’s Division of Preventive Medicine and co-author of the study.
One intriguing finding
There was one interesting piece that came out of both the most recent COSMOS trial and the earlier one.
Both COSMOS studies showed that the participants who benefited the most in terms of memory improvement from taking a multivitamin were those who had a history of cardiovascular disease.
Based on past research, this makes sense…
Scientists at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research found that people at high risk of developing cardiovascular diseases may also experience earlier memory decline than their healthier age-mates.
Why supplementing is necessary
Dr. Bruce Ames, a professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Emeritus at UC Berkeley, talks about the “triage theory” to explain how your body uses vitamins—and why supplementing is necessary.
Essentially, your body first uses the vitamins you take in to maintain daily processes and do immediate repair on cells and tissues.
Only when all that is done does it assign what’s left for benefits that can impact your “long-haul” health — like an aging brain.
The nine vitamins Dr. Ames lists as “longevity vitamins” and they do double duty for brain health:
- Vitamin D
- Omega 3 fatty acids
- Ergothioneine (ESH)
- Pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ)
Recently I read an article from Harvard Health basically stating that supplements are a waste of money. That’s not surprising at all…
Last year the Council for Responsible Nutrition reported that supplementing could slash billions of dollars in healthcare costs — something that could impact the bottom line for those vested in conventional medicine.
Yet, some in the scientific community are not afraid to speak up, even personally …
Dr. Adam Brickman, who studies the aging brain at Columbia University, was involved in both COSMOS studies. In an interview with MSN, he shared that he had not taken vitamins since he was a kid — but that’s now changed.
“I’m just as skeptical as anyone else when it comes to this stuff,” Brickman said. “When we start seeing that kind of consistency across well-designed studies, it certainly helps convince me — the ultimate skeptic — that we’re on to something real.”
He added, “I started taking multivitamins the day we ran the analyses and saw the results, and I take ’em every morning.”
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Effects of cocoa extract and a multivitamin on cognitive function: A randomized clinical trial — Alzheimer’s Association