Taking a Daily Multivitamin May Improve Cognitive Health and Slow Decline

Many of us start our day with a multivitamin. Though research hasn’t been clear on how beneficial this may be, a new study finds it may help a bit with your brain health.

Researchers from Wake Forest University School of Medicine teamed up with others from Brigham and Women’s Hospital to investigate possible cognitive benefits of multivitamins and cocoa. While the latter wasn’t found to do much, taking a daily multivitamin was linked with improved cognition and slower cognitive decline. The findings, published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, could give people something simple to try for maintaining brain health. However, further research is needed.


Dr. Laura Baker, co-lead investigator and professor of gerontology and geriatric medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, says, “It’s too early to recommend daily multivitamin supplementation to prevent cognitive decline. While these preliminary findings are promising, additional research is needed in a larger and more diverse group of people. Also, we still have work to do to better understand why the multivitamin might benefit cognition in older adults.”

The study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging, involved more than 2,200 men and women aged 65 and older. In a randomized trial, researchers compared the health of those who took a daily multivitamin versus those who took a placebo, as well as a daily dose of cocoa extract versus placebo. The team says they tested cocoa due to its high levels of flavanols, which have been linked to improved cognition in past research.

Participants completed cognitive and memory tests over the phone when the study started and then did so annually for three years. The researchers found that three years of daily multivitamin consumption was linked with a 60% slowing of cognitive decline, which translated to about 1.8 years. This benefit was especially strong in those with significant cardiovascular disease, which carries with it a higher risk of cognitive decline.


Dr. Baker says, “Our study showed that although cocoa extract did not affect cognition, daily multivitamin-mineral supplementation resulted in statistically significant cognitive improvement. This is the first evidence of cognitive benefit in a large longer-term study of multivitamin supplementation in older adults.”

Going forward, the team says further research is needed to support these findings and to determine which properties of multivitamins could be linked with cognitive improvement.

Past research has had conflicting findings on a multivitamin’s impact on cognitive health, but if you do decide to take a multivitamin, there are some things to keep in mind. Certain vitamins, including A and E, can be dangerous if taken at high doses. Also, if you’re concerned you may be deficient in something, you should talk to your doctor.

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