‘Remarkable’: Multivitamin may boost memory, slow cognitive decline in older people

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Data from the large-scale COSMOS-Web study found that a daily multivitamin may improve memory performance in older adults.    Image © MoMo Productions / Getty Images
Data from the large-scale COSMOS-Web study found that a daily multivitamin may improve memory performance in older adults. Image © MoMo Productions / Getty Images

Related tags Multivitamin Dietary supplements multivitamins Vitamin Unmetered Unmetered

A daily multivitamin may improve memory performance in older adults by the equivalent of 3.1 years compared to the placebo, according to new data from the large-scale COcoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study (COSMOS).

COSMOS included two separate clinical trials: COSMOS-Web and COSMOS-Mind. The new data relates to COSMOS-Web, which included 3,500 participants aged 60 and older who completed novel web-based assessments of memory and cognition annually over 3 years.

The data confirms earlier findings from COSMOS-Mind linking daily multivitamins to slowing of cognitive decline​.

“The findings that a daily multivitamin improved memory and slowed cognitive decline in two separate studies in the COSMOS randomized trial is remarkable, suggesting that multivitamin supplementation holds promise as a safe, accessible and affordable approach to protecting cognitive health in older adults,” said JoAnn Manson, MD, chief of the Division of Preventive Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) in Boston and a co-leader of the parent COSMOS trial.

Howard Sesso, ScD, associate director of the Brigham’s Division of Preventive Medicine and Cosmos co-leader, added: “With these two studies on cognition in hand for COSMOS, and more to come in COSMOS, it is critical to understand how a daily multivitamin may protect against memory loss and cognitive decline, and whether particular subgroups based on nutritional status or other factors may benefit more, or less.”

The data is published online in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition​.


Although limited to older adults, the data will be welcomed by he millions of Americas who regularly take a multivitamin. According to data from the Council for Responsible Nutrition’s 2022 Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements​, multivitamins are the most used supplement in the US, with 70% of all supplement users reporting that they had taken a multivitamin in the past 12 months.

The Cosmos studies used the Centrum Silver (Pfizer Consumer Healthcare, now Haleon) brand of multivitamins.

Study details

The 3,500 participants were randomized to a daily multivitamin or placebo for three years. At the end of each year, they performed a series of online cognitive assessments at home designed to test memory function of the hippocampus, an area of the brain that is affected by normal aging.

Results showed that, by the end of the first year, memory improved for people taking a daily multivitamin, compared with those taking a placebo. The researchers estimate the improvement, which was sustained over the three-year study period, was equivalent to about three years of age-related memory decline. The data also indicated that the effect was more pronounced in participants with underlying cardiovascular disease.

“Because of our innovative approach of assessing cognitive outcomes using internet-based tests, we were able to examine the effects of a multivitamin in thousands of study participants. The findings are promising and certainly set the stage for important follow-up studies about the impact of multivitamin supplementation on cognition,” said Adam Brickman, PhD, who co-led the COSMOS-Web study with Lok-Kin Yeung, PhD, at Columbia University. 

“Most older adults are worried about memory changes that occur with aging. Our study suggests that supplementation with multivitamins may be a simple and inexpensive way for older adults to slow down memory loss,” added Yeung.


The results were welcomed by dietary supplement trade associations. Dr Jim Griffiths, PhD, senior vice president, international and scientific affairs, Council for Responsible, told us: “CRN has always recognized the importance of multivitamins is to fill nutrient gaps and to ensure the public gets the recommended levels of nutrients essential to everyday life. This study is another exciting example of the ever-growing body of evidence demonstrating the benefits of multivitamins on both physical health and cognitive function.”

Daniel Fabricant, PhD, president and CEO of the Natural Products Association (NPA), told NutraIngredients-USA: "It is terrific to see a study that follows common sense with significant statistical power. This goes a long way to frame the discussion that for generations most of us are suboptimal at best when it comes to nutrition (especially micronutrients) and interventions to correct that lead to better health outcomes. The narrative of the importance of a MVM for most of us is a worthwhile one to advance.”

In a press release from the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), Duffy MacKay, ND, CHPA's Senior Vice President of Dietary Supplements, stated: “When it comes to nutrition, even those individuals with the healthiest diets often fail to reach the recommended daily intake level for vitamins and nutrients. As we age, achieving that goal becomes even more important in order to protect memory and cognition, which is why CHPA is pleased to once again see promising results emerge from this clinical trial.

“These results are certainly important, as there is an urgent need to identify strategies to preserve cognitive function and reduce the burden of dementia on families and society. This clinical trial reinforces the important role supplements play in helping adults meet their nutrient needs, which is a critical part of healthy aging for the mind and body.

“Scientific evidence grows in increments, and this study is an important component in strengthening the beneficial role of safe, accessible, and affordable dietary supplements that can be used to optimize health through self-care.”

The Cosmos study was funded by Mars Edge (a segment of Mars Inc.) and the US National Institutes of Health.

Source: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.ajcnut.2023.05.011
“Multivitamin supplementation improves memory in older adults: a randomized clinical trial”
Authors: L-K Yeung et al. 

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