Could a Daily Multivitamin Help You Stay Sharp?

A common multivitamin may provide some protection against cognitive decline as we age. Findings from the COSMOS-Mind study have just been published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia. The results suggest that taking a multivitamin supplement every day could help us all stay sharp.

COSMOS-Mind Studied Cognitive Function:

COSMOS-Mind was part of the much larger trial called COSMOS (COco Ssupplement and Multivitamin ohoutcomes Sstudy). The entire study was big, with 21,442 volunteers. Each participant took either cocoa extract (supplied by Mars Edge and providing 500 mg of cocoa flavanols) or placebo pills. In addition, every person in the study also took either a daily multivitamin (Centrum Silver) or a look-alike placebo. Results from the primary study showed that people taking cocoa extract were less likely to die from heart disease or stroke.

A Multivitamin to Help You Stay Sharp:

The 2,262 volunteers in the COSMOS-Mind secondary study also took either cocoa flavanols or placebo along with either a multivitamin or placebo (Alzheimer’s & Dementia, Sept. 14, 2022). These individuals, all at least 65 years old, took cognitive tests at the beginning of the study and during each of the next three years. Researchers gave each participant a global cognitive score that included test results for word list, story recall, oral trail-making, number span, digit ordering and verbal fluency. Reductions in the score measured cognitive decline.

Analysis of these data showed that the people taking multivitamins were more likely to stay sharp than those on placebo. Volunteers with cardiovascular conditions seemed to benefit the most. No significant difference was apparent among those taking cocoa flavanols.

Researchers point to this as the first long-term randomized controlled trial of multivitamins and cocoa flavanols for cognition. They caution, however, that scientists must do further studies to confirm these findings.

A High-Vegetable Diet Might Help You Stay Sharp:

An epidemiologic study from Cache County, Utah, hinted years ago that a diet rich in vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes could help slow cognitive decline (American Journal of Clinical Nutritiononline Sept 18, 2013). This study of senior citizens began in 1995 and lasted 11 years. Researchers assessed the participants’ eating habits four times during the study.

When the investigators analyzed the dietary patterns, they found that people were eating a diet similar to that DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) scored higher on a cognitive test. So did those whose diets followed a Mediterranean-style eating pattern. The differences were consistent over time, and although they were small, they were statistically significant.

What Were People Eating?

Both DASH and Mediterranean diets are heavy on vegetables and fruits and contain whole grains and legumes. The Mediterranean style diet has more fat in the form of nuts and olive oil, while the DASH diet features more low-fat dairy products. Both diets are low in red meat and contain minimal processed foods. Moreover, moderate alcohol consumption is usually included in scoring the Mediterranean diet pattern. However, since the vast majority of the Cache County seniors are Mormons, they don’t drink. On the other hand, they also don’t smoke, so neither alcohol nor tobacco use confounded the results. The investigators concluded that diets rich in whole grains, nuts and legumes seem to offer long-lasting cognitive benefits.

Are Vitamins a Waste of Time?

Occasionally, we still hear health professionals express the opinion that you don’t need to take vitamins. Instead, they insist, you just need to eat a well-balanced diet. The data from Cache County may support that contention. On the other hand, relatively few Americans seem to be following a Mediterranean eating pattern or even a DASH diet. Instead of a plate full of whole grains, vegetables and legumes, some of us are happier with a cheeseburger or a bucket of fried chicken. Perhaps a multivitamin can help overcome the nutritional disadvantages of the standard American diet, at least in part.

Learn More:

Are you interested in eating a DASH diet or following the Mediterranean plan, but confused about how to do this? We have descriptions, practical recommendations and delicious recipes in our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remediesfrom National Geographic.

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