We’ve long reported on the importance of nutrition for your noggin. And we believe the foundation of good nutrition is a healthy diet and a good multi-vitamin. Now, there’s been countless studies on which diets are best for your memory (the Mediterranean diet is among those taking top honors), but precious few studies on multivitamins and your memory—at least until recently.
That’s why we were thrilled by results of numerous studies that show a good multi-vitamin can be a game-changer for your memory – including one study led by scientists at Harvard. Their study shows that just by taking a multivitamin pill every day for a year you can slow age-related memory decline by 60 percent.
In recent years two small studies have found that multivitamins can improve memory in seniors. But scientists wanted to do further research.
Scientists at Wake Forest University and Harvard wanted to find out if taking a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement containing 27 nutrients would help maintain cognitive health with aging.
They held a study for more than 2,200 participants aged 65 and older. They randomly assigned half to the supplement while the other half took a placebo. The team used a battery of neuropsychological tests conducted by telephone at the start of the study and then continued with their assessments in person for three years.
Slowed Cognitive Decline By 60 Percent!
The results of the trial, called COSMOS, showed those taking the supplement saw improved overall cognition, memory recall, and attention, and enjoyed a 60 percent slowing in cognitive decline compared to placebo.
Senior author Laura Baker explained, saying, “While these preliminary findings are promising, additional research is needed in a larger and more diverse group of people.
So, they set about devising a second COSMOS trial.
A Three Year ‘Younger’ Memory
This time the study was led by scientists at Columbia University in collaboration with Harvard. Although it had a different design from the earlier trial, it was the same in most respects except that the cognitive tests for each participant were internet based.
For the trial they enrolled 3,562 men and women over the age of 60 including people of different races, ethnicities, educational levels, socioeconomic status, and household income. After just one year researchers found that the multivitamin supplement-takers had a clear advantage in memory performance compared to the placebo group. They sustained this improvement over the three years of the study.
The researchers estimate the improvement was equivalent to preventing three years of age-related memory decline. What’s more, the effect was more pronounced in participants with underlying cardiovascular disease, a finding that was also found in the original COSMOS trial.
Senior author Adam Brickman explained, saying, “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.”
As for why people with heart disease were helped more by the supplement, he couldn’t be certain, but suggested that “people with cardiovascular disease may have lower micronutrient levels which multivitamins may correct.”
First author Lok-Kin Yeung added: “Our study shows that the aging brain may be more sensitive to nutrition than we realized…”
Another study author, JoAnn Manson, MD, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School who was also involved in the original COSMOS trial, was impressed by what the team discovered, saying, “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.”
Other Experts Also Impressed
“This study is groundbreaking,” said Andrew Budson, author, Harvard lecturer, and professor of neurology at Boston University, who was not involved in the study.
“That a simple multivitamin can slow cognitive decline while they are aging normally is quite exciting, as it is something that almost everyone can do.”
Paul E. Schulz, MD, a professor of neurology at McGovern Medical School at The University of Texas, said the brain requires multiple nutrients to function properly. “Think of a complicated engine that requires lots of specialty parts and needs them all. We regularly see people who are deficient in them who come in with cognitive impairment.”
Donald Hensrud, a specialist in nutrition at the Mayo Clinic, said: “This is probably the best evidence there is for taking a multivitamin. A randomized, controlled trial — good study.”
Many More Health Benefits…
This isn’t the first research where multivitamins have shown their value in keeping you healthy. Early studies found a daily multivitamin:
- Lowers risk of death from heart disease. A 2015 study of women shows that taking a multivitamin for more than three years was linked to a lower risk of dying from heart disease.
- Lowers risk of cancer. A review of five randomized controlled trials including 47,289 participants showed a 31 percent lower risk of cancer in men using multivitamins.
- Reduces risk of cataracts. Some research shows that taking a daily vitamin can also reduce your risk of developing cataracts.
If you’re taking a multivitamin, you should know that not all these supplements are created equal.
Choosing The Best Multivitamin
Look for supplements that are made from natural, whole-food sources like fruits and vegetables. It’s also important to only buy supplements with a GMP certification – Good Manufacturing Practices—which is a set of guidelines created by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure that supplements are manufactured under strict quality safeguards.
Unless you have issues swallowing pills, steer clear of gummy multivitamins. They’re often loaded with added sugar. They also frequently fall short on numerous nutrients and don’t provide a complete spectrum of vitamins and, specifically, minerals.
Be sure to read labels to investigate how much of your recommended dietary allowances (RDA) of certain nutrients are provided—the closer you get to 100 percent, or even move beyond– the better.
Everyone’s nutritional needs are different, but, generally, select a multivitamin that includes vitamins A, C, D3, E, K1 and K2, and all eight B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, B6, biotin, folate, and B12).
It’s also important for your multivitamin to contain a full array of essential minerals, including calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and iron, as well as often-overlooked minerals like iodine, selenium, copper, manganese, molybdenum, and chromium. If you find trace minerals like boron and silica that’s even better.
Most people forget that forms of these vitamins are also important. In addition to being food sourced, look for gentle, bioavailable, bioactive forms, such as chelated minerals and methylated B vitamins, as these can help ensure your body makes the most of these nutrients.
Then, check out the overall formulation: Is it vegan, NON-GMO, gluten-free? Finally, examine the “other ingredients” list. The shorter this is, the fewer the number of additives the product contains—and that’s good news.
The Awakening From Alzheimer’s Team