Some people are vigilant when it comes to taking a multivitamin. The ones that require a daily intake of multivitamins know that the tablet accounts for around 40 percent of all vitamin sales. Hence, health researchers conducted a mew randomized, placebo-controlled research and they were able to connect the once-a-day multivitamin to the prevention of cognitive function, especially in older adults.
So, does taking a multivitamin daily come with a host of benefits? While the common over-the-counter daily supplements have been deemed safe by doctors, many health institutions and experts claim that these are not as necessary. That is, unless you have been diagnosed with a vitamin deficiency.
Despite what they say, vitamins have become extremely quite popular. In fact, estimates show that around 1 in 3 Americans take supplements. As for the once-a-day multivitamin that we know about, this accounts for around 40 percent of all sales of vitamins, according to Penn Medicine.
For those who take their daily vitamins intake seriously, there’s good news: They say that taking a multivitamin may be crucial when it comes to maintaining cognitive health, especially with the older population. This is according to findings published on September 14 in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.
The Number of Dementia Patients May Double by the Year 2050
What is dementia? This refers to the loss of cognitive functioning. This encompasses issues such as the ability to think, the skill to reason properly. The decline may interfere with a person’s life on a daily basis, according to the National Institute on Aging.
There are also different kinds of dementia. The list includes Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy body dementia, vascular dementia, and Parkinson’s disease, as explained by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Right now, there is an outright need for safe and affordable interventions that allow the older adult to protect himself or herself from cognition decline, explained co-lead author Laura D. Baker, PhD. She is a professor of gerontology and geriatric medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston Salem, North Carolina.
Recent research has also been made the findings somewhat point out to the fact that the actual cases of dementia cases from every part of the world may continue to further climb as a result of people increasing their life expectancy. This is also exacerbated by risk factors such as smoking, obesity, and high blood sugar. A study was published in January 2022 in The Lancet. The research made a projection that the number of adults that are dealing with a certain type of dementia in the United States will double by the year 2050. This means that there will be an increase from 5.2 million people to 10.5 million.
Researchers Left Shocked by What They Discovered
The trial made was performed and the researchers collaborated with Brigham and Women’s Hospital as part of the COSMOS trial (Cocoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study). The study was designed to look into the potential benefits when it comes to the prevention of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and other health issues.
In order to conduct their study, researchers had randomized 21,442 men and women from the many states of the U.S. All the participants involved in the trial were above 65 years old (with an average age of 73). There was a total of 60 percent women, and 89 percent white.
The participants were then grouped into four in a “two-by-two” trial; in one part of the study, there were those who took daily cocoa extract (which contains 500 milligrams per day flavanols). They were placed side-by-side with those who took a placebo tablet, and in the second part of the trial, those who made sure that they had the over-the-counter daily multivitamin-mineral supplement were placed side-by-side with those who just took a placebo supplement.
The researchers then asked the participants to take a cognitive test after, and this was done over the phone in order for them to establish a baseline. The phone call was repeated yearly over the next 3 years as a follow up. The test they made came with a word list and story recall, verbal fluency, digit ordering, and some other tools that allowed them to measure memory, speed, and accuracy in terms of cognitive processing.
The researchers already had their expectations. They started this trial believing that the ones who took the cocoa extract would benefit the most. They had this belief because they knew that cocoa extract is rich in compounds called flavanols (dark chocolate contains flavonoids). Aside from that, previous research had suggested that these compounds had a helpful impact cognition, as per Baker. “There’s also preliminary data that shows that cocoa flavanols were very beneficial for cardiovascular health,” she explained.
It is believed that flavonoids work by being able to enhance blood flow to the brain and reduce any form of inflammation. “Anytime you can improve cardiovascular health, you improve cognition — they are intimately tied,” said Baker.
However, they found something different at the end because the findings they came up with demonstrated that those who took the cocoa extract that had flavanols didn’t display any cognitive improvements when they were compared to the group who took the placebo. “That was not what we were expecting — we were kind of shocked that there was no benefit,” said Baker.
And just as astonishing, the researchers found that taking a daily multivitamin-mineral supplement showed a statistically remarkable cognitive improvement. They then made estimates and saw that three years of taking a multivitamin roughly meant that there was a 60 percent slowing of cognitive decline. In years, this meant around 1.8 years.
Several Vitamins and Minerals Are Important to Enhance Brain Functioning
This was the very first proof of the cognitive benefits that came in a large longer-term study of multivitamin supplementation, especially in older adults. This finding something they didn’t really, said Baker. That’s because the past studies that looked into cognition and multivitamins have shown somewhat mixed results, she also added.
Fact remains that there are micronutrients and minerals needed to enhance and support normal body and brain functioning. The deficiencies of these as people age may also increase the risk for cognitive decline such as dementia, and this is where a multivitamin may come in handy when it comes to protecting both brain and body, said Baker.
Now the question is: Is there a particular vitamin or mineral that people can take so that their brain can benefit from it? That’s not yet clear at this point, said Baker. If more future research can confirm that vitamins can really help with cognition, chances are that it may be more than just one particular vitamin or mineral. Rather, the ingredients may have a synergistic effect that comes from two or even more components of the multivitamin. She explained, “We still have work to do to better understand why the multivitamin might benefit cognition in older adults.”
The cognitive benefits from those who took a daily vitamin were relatively clearer in those with significant cardiovascular disease, which is a factor that the authors thought were of note because these individuals were currently at a greater risk for cognitive impairment and decline.
Further Research Needed Before Experts Recommend a Daily Vitamin to Enhance Cognition
“It’s too early to recommend daily multivitamin supplementation to prevent cognitive decline. If we’re going to make a strong recommendation around vitamins and cognition, we have to make sure it’s going to be good for everybody, and we don’t know that yet,” stated Baker. While the preliminary findings made seem promising, additional research is still crucial for a larger and more diverse group of people, she added.
“That being said, people are free to do whatever they want to do — it’s generally safe to take a multivitamin,” said Baker. As for the many vitamin manufacturers out there, they are sure to keep up with the latest science findings when it comes to the needed amounts of different vitamins and minerals. They continue to enhance the formulations of their product according to what’s needed, she says.
Proper Nutrition Is What’s Crucial for Brain Health
Researchers have yet much to discover when it comes to vitamin supplements and brain health, but at this point, what they know is that even miniscule declines in the vitamin and micronutrient deficiencies, this can have consequences for the brain, said Baker. “Unfortunately, in the U.S., we tend to eat foods that are rich in saturated fats and a lot of carbohydrates and we often don’t eat enough of foods that are high in nutrient value,” she added.
As for the other methods and strategies, the Cleveland Clinic has come up with some nutritional tips to help you maintain a healthy brain:
- Follow a Mediterranean-style diet. This means that you need to include olive oil as the primary oil. You also need to up the intake of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, as well as take in moderate amounts of fish and dairy products. You also need to limit your intake of red and processed meats and sugar.
- Limit eating red meat when possible.
- As for fish, eat those that are rich in omega-3s such as salmon, cod, haddock, tuna, or halibut. For healthy fats, great sources for these would be walnuts, flaxseeds, and soybeans.
- Try to eat more fruits and vegetables. Data coming from a CDC report (PDF) was published in January 2022. The researchers saw that only about 1 in 8 adults consumed the recommended 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit on a daily basis. Also, only 1 in 10 eat adults take the recommended 2 to 3 cups of vegetables per day. Included on the latter are legumes.