Daily Multivitamin May Improve Cognition and Protect Against Mental Decline


One of the most popular dietary supplements in the United States is the multivitamin, which about one-third of adults currently use. People frequently use multivitamins to maintain or improve their health, guard against nutrient deficiencies, or fill in the occasional dietary gap in their diet.

Furthermore, a recent study from the Wake Forest University School of Medicine, in association with Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, discovered that taking a daily multivitamin may assist preserve cognitive health as we age and possibly halt cognitive decline.

The study aimed to determine whether two dietary supplements—cocoa extract or multivitamin-mineral—reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and other health problems.

Examining the Effects of Cocoa Extract and a Multivitamin on Cognitive Function

Alzheimer’s affects more than 6 million Americans of all ages. In 2022, 6.5 million Americans 65 and older will have Alzheimer’s. 73% of people are 75 years of age or older. Alzheimer’s disease affects 1 in 9 people 65 and older (10.7%).

These figures highlight the urgent need for safe and cost-effective therapies to shield older persons’ cognition against deterioration. In this regard, the Cocoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study for the Mind (COSMOS-Mind) were carried out by Wake Forest University School of Medicine researchers in partnership with Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. It examined the effects of a daily dosage of cocoa extract (containing 500 mg/day of flavonols) and a commercial multivitamin-mineral (MVM) supplement on cognition in older women and men.

The study was an add-on to the COSMOS trial, which randomized 21,442 men and women across the United States and was directed by Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Participants were contacted to organize the baseline telephone cognitive assessment, test for hearing acuity and provide more details regarding the ancillary study. To improve the representation of historically underrepresented groups in research, individuals from these groups were given priority in the COSMOS-Mind first contact queue. Participants also supplied information about their demographics, baseline anthropometrics (height, weight), and medical histories through questionnaires.

The researchers noted that flavanols, abundant in cocoa extract, have been linked to favorable cognitive effects in the past. Additionally, they noted that several micronutrients and minerals are necessary for maintaining healthy bodily and mental function and that deficits in older persons may raise the risk of cognitive decline and dementia.

Researchers examined the effects of daily administration of cocoa extract and a multivitamin-mineral supplement on cognition in older individuals as part of the COSMOS-Mind study. Over 2,200 people aged 65 or older signed up and were monitored for three years. Participants took telephone tests to measure their memory and other cognitive skills at baseline and once a year.

Their results showed that daily multivitamin-mineral intake led to a statistically significant improvement in cognition, even though cocoa extract did not affect cognition. The researchers concluded that this is the first instance of a longer-term investigation of multivitamin supplementation in older persons that shows a cognitive benefit.

According to their calculations, taking multivitamins for three years resulted in a 60% reduction in cognitive impairment (about 1.8 years). Participants with substantial cardiovascular disease saw comparatively more pronounced advantages, which is significant because these people already have an elevated risk of cognitive decline and disability. The study’s conclusions could significantly impact public health standards of care for preserving or enhancing cognitive function in older persons.

However, the researchers also noted that more research is required to validate these results and that it is still too early to advise regular multivitamin intake to stop cognitive deterioration. More research on a wider, more diverse population is required to properly understand how multivitamins can help older folks’ cognition.

Journal Reference

Baker, L. D., Manson, J. E., Rapp, S. R., Sesso, H. D., Gaussoin, S. A., Shumaker, S. A., & Espeland, M. A. (2022). Effects of cocoa extract and a multivitamin on cognitive function: A randomized clinical trial. Alzheimer’s & Dementia. https://doi.org/10.1002/alz.12767 

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