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"Exciting" New Study Finds Daily Multivitamin Can Keep Your Brain Young

Researchers claim that a supplement can slow cognitive aging by up to two years.

A vitamin is one of the easiest additions to your morning routine—it can even be a little sweet treat if you opt for one in gummy form. Maybe you've already done this, taking a magnesium supplement for digestion or a vitamin C tablet to strengthen your immune system in the winter. But now, a recent study has found there's a multivitamin that can have an even more "exciting" effect, keeping your brain young and your memory sharp.

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Published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition this week, the study evaluated U.S. adults aged 60 and older, examining the effects of multivitamin-mineral supplements on late-life cognitive function. The research, which is part of the larger COcoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study (COSMOS), included 573 participants who took either a multivitamin or placebo and then completed in-person cognitive assessments.

Over two years, those who took a daily multivitamin scored higher on these assessments and memory tests than those who received placebo, researchers found.

"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," first author Chirag Vyas, MBBS, MPH, instructor in investigation at the Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), said in a press release.

Per the release, taking a multivitamin had a "modest benefit" on cognition compared with the placebo, but it had a "significant benefit" for change in episodic memory. According to the American Psychological Association (APA) Dictionary of Psychology, episodic memory is "the ability to remember personally experienced events associated with a particular time and place."

There was no statistically significant benefit of multivitamin supplementation on executive function or attention.

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The study authors also compared the findings with two other studies from the larger COSMOS study—and all three "showed strong evidence of benefits for both global cognition and episodic memory," the press release states. In all three studies, researchers estimated that the daily multivitamin reduced cognitive aging by roughly two years compared to the placebo.

As Vyas told The New York Times, this means that, in theory, these people tested as well as someone two years younger than them.

"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," Vyas said in the press release.

JoAnn Manson, MD, DrPH, co-author of the report and chief of the Division of Preventive Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH), said that the slowing of cognitive aging in three separate studies is an "exciting" finding, further supporting "the promise of multivitamins as a safe, accessible and affordable approach to protecting cognitive health in older adults."

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However, while researchers involved with the study touted the results' potential, others said the findings should be taken with a grain of salt.

"I would put it in the realm of promising, but I wouldn't go to the bank with it," Mary Butler, an associate professor of public health at the University of Minnesota, told the NYT.

Other medical professionals took issue with the claim that multivitamins could achieve a two-year slowdown in cognitive aging. Researchers came to this conclusion by comparing the multivitamin group's results with average test scores by age. Hussein Yassine, MD, an associate professor of neurology at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, told the NYT that the interpretation is "misleading."

Experts not affiliated with the study added that more research is necessary to include different socioeconomic classes, ethnicities, and races (the present study was mostly comprised of white participants), as well as to pinpoint which people benefit from supplements and why.

"Instead of concluding that everybody should be taking a multivitamin, I think we should possibly try to understand who benefits from taking the multivitamin," Yassine told the NYT.

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Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the medication you're taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your healthcare provider directly.

Abby Reinhard
Abby Reinhard is a Senior Editor at Best Life, covering daily news and keeping readers up to date on the latest style advice, travel destinations, and Hollywood happenings. Read more
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