Could a daily multivitamin help you stay sharp?

A common multivitamin may provide some protection against cognitive decline as you age. The discoveries of the COSMOS-Spirit study has just been published in the journal Alzheimer’s and dementia. The results suggest that taking a multivitamin supplement daily could help us stay alert.

Cognitive function studied by COSMOS-Mind:

COSMOS-Mind was part of a much larger trial called COSMOS (COhow Ssupplement and Multivitamin Oresults Sstudy). The entire study was large, with 21,442 volunteers. Each participant took either cocoa extract (supplied by Mars Edge and providing 500mg of cocoa flavanols) or placebo pills. In addition, each person in the study also took 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 a placebo, along with a multivitamin or a placebo (Alzheimer’s and dementia, September 14, 2022). These people, all aged at least 65, took cognitive tests at the start of the study and in each of the following three years. Researchers assigned each participant an overall cognitive score that included test scores for word listing, story recall, creating oral tracks, number range, number order, and verbal fluency. Score reductions measured cognitive decline.

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

The researchers consider this to be the first long-term randomized controlled trial of multivitamins and cocoa flavanols for cognition. They caution, however, that scientists need to do more studies to confirm these findings.

A diet rich in vegetables could help you stay sharp:

An epidemiological study from Cache County, Utah suggested years ago that a diet rich in vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes may help slow cognitive decline (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, online September 18, 2013). This study on seniors began in 1995 and lasted 11 years. The researchers assessed participants’ eating habits four times during the study.

When the investigators analyzed eating habits, they found that people following a diet similar to the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet scored higher on a cognitive test. The same goes for those whose diet follows a Mediterranean-style eating pattern. The differences were consistent over time, and although small, they were statistically significant.

What were people eating?

The DASH and Mediterranean diets are rich in 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 has more low-fat dairy products. Both diets are low in red meat and contain minimal processed foods. In addition, moderate alcohol consumption is usually included in the scoring of the Mediterranean diet model. However, since the vast majority of older people in Cache County are Mormons, they do not drink. On the other hand, they are also non-smokers, so neither alcohol nor tobacco consumption confounded the results. The researchers concluded that diets high in whole grains, nuts, and legumes appear to provide long-lasting cognitive benefits.

Are vitamins a waste of time?

Occasionally, we still hear health professionals expressing the opinion that it is not necessary to take vitamins. Instead, they insist, you just need to eat a well-balanced diet. Data from Cache County may support this claim. On the other hand, relatively few Americans seem to follow a Mediterranean diet or even a DASH diet. Instead of a plate full of whole grains, vegetables, and legumes, some of us are happiest with a cheeseburger or a bucket of fried chicken. Perhaps a multivitamin can help overcome the nutritional drawbacks of the standard American diet, at least in part.

Learn more:

Are you interested in going on a DASH diet or following the Mediterranean plan, but not sure how to do it? We have descriptions, practical recommendations and delicious recipes in our book, Quick and Convenient Home Remedies from People’s Pharmacyfrom National Geographic.

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