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Brigham Study Suggests Multivitamins May Help Protect Cognitive Function in Adults

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

JoAnn E. Manson, MD, DrPH, MACPChief, Division of Preventive Medicine Brigham and Women's Hospital Professor of Medicine and the Michael and Lee Bell Professor of Women's Health Harvard Medical School Boston, Massachusetts  02215

Dr. Manson

JoAnn E. Manson, MD, DrPH, MACP
Chief, Division of Preventive Medicine
Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Professor of Medicine and the
Michael and Lee Bell Professor of Women’s Health
Harvard Medical School
Boston, Massachusetts  02215


MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?  Any particular types of vitamins, ie with/without iron etc?

Response: Preserving memory and cognitive health is a high priority for most mid-life and older adults.  However, few strategies have been rigorously tested in randomized clinical trials and shown to have cognitive benefits. Nutritional approaches hold promise because the brain requires several nutrients for optimal health, and deficiencies in one or more of these nutrients may lead to accelerated memory loss and cognitive decline. The COcoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study (COSMOS), a large-scale nation-wide randomized trial of multivitamins and cocoa flavanols had recently reported that multivitamins slowed global cognitive decline and memory loss (in COSMOS-Mind). The current study was a 2nd parallel trial, a collaboration between Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Columbia University, looking at a web-based assessment of the role of a  standard multivitamin and of cocoa flavanols in slowing age-related memory loss. The report in AJCN is on the multivitamin-cognition findings. The multivitamin tested was Centrum silver for adults (without iron).

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?

Response:  The newly published trial (COSMOS-Web) included more than 3,500 participants aged 60 and older who completed internet-based assessments of memory and cognition each year over 3 years. Compared to the placebo group, participants randomized to multivitamin supplementation did significantly better on the memory tests at the prespecified primary time point of 1 year, and the benefits were sustained across the 3 years of follow-up. We estimated that the multivitamin intervention improved memory performance by the equivalent of 3.1 years compared to the placebo Also, the participants who benefitted the most were those with a history of cardiovascular disease, which was also the subgroup who benefitted the most in COSMOS-Mind.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: The findings suggest that multivitamin supplementation holds promise as a safe, accessible and affordable approach to protecting cognitive health in older adults. The fact that two separate and non-overlapping studies in the COSMOS randomized trial demonstrated that a daily multivitamin improved memory and slowed cognitive aging is remarkable for the consistency of the finding.  However, multivitamins (and other dietary supplements) shouldn’t be perceived as a substitute for a healthy diet or healthy lifestyle, even if used as a complementary approach.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a results of this study?

Response: Additional research is necessary to identify the specific nutrients contributing the most to this benefit and the underlying biological mechanisms involved. Further research is also needed to determine whether the findings are generalizable to a more diverse study population with lower educational levels and lower socioeconomic status.  

Disclosures: COSMOS-Web was supported by investigator-initiated grants from Mars Edge, a segment of Mars Inc. and several grants from the National Institutes of Health. Multivitamin and placebo tablets and packaging were donated by Pfizer, Inc Consumer Healthcare (now Haleon).


 “Multivitamin supplementation improves memory in older adults: A randomized clinical trial” by Lok-Kin Yeung, Daniel M. Alschuler, Melanie Wall, Heike Luttmann-Gibson, Trisha Copeland, Christiane Hale, Richard P. Sloan, Howard D. Sesso, JoAnn E. Manson and Adam M. Brickman, 24 May 2023, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
DOI: 10.1016/j.ajcnut.2023.05.011

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Last Updated on May 30, 2023 by Marie Benz