Daily Multivitamin Might Help Aging Brains

Clinical trials found strong evidence of benefits for both brain function and memory from taking daily multivitamins for two to three years

A daily multivitamin could help people keep their brains healthy as they age, a new trial finds.

Results suggest taking multivitamins could help prevent memory loss and slow cognitive aging among older adults, researchers report in the Jan. 18 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The effect was measurable: A daily multivitamin slowed brain aging by the equivalent of two years compared to placebo.

Still, experts expressed some skepticism, and wondered if simply eating healthy might not bring about the same results.

“Taking a multivitamin supplement is probably good for you, but we don’t know if it’s likely to have a big impact in people who have a healthy diet,” physician Richard Caselli, a professor emeritus of neurology at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, told NBC News.

“I still maintain a bit of skepticism as far as what magnitude of impact this makes,” he added. “I’m doubtful the difference would be really big.”

The new study was led by physician Chirag Vyas, an instructor in investigation at Massachusetts General Hospital’s department of psychiatry.

“Cognitive decline is among the top health concerns for most older adults, and a daily supplement of multivitamins has the potential as an appealing and accessible approach to slow cognitive aging,” he said.

The Cocoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study (COSMOS) is a large-scale, randomized trial performed in collaboration by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Columbia University and Wake Forest University. It looked at whether a special cocoa extract supplement, a daily multivitamin (in this case Centrum Silver) or both might help boost health.

The clinical trials were funded by the National Institutes of Health and candy and snack manufacturer Mars Inc. Pfizer donated both the multivitamins and placebo tables used in the trials. Neither company had any role in the design of the trials.

Analysis of more than 5,000 participants in three separate, but related, COSMOS clinical trials found strong evidence of benefits for both brain function and memory from taking daily multivitamins for two to three years, researchers said.

“The meta-analysis of three separate cognition studies provides strong and consistent evidence that taking a daily multivitamin, containing more than 20 essential micronutrients, helps prevent memory loss and slow down cognitive aging,” Yvas said in a MGH news release.