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Multivitamins could curb age-related memory loss, study says

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Forego forgetfulness with one daily habit.

Memory loss with aging could be curbed with the regular use of multivitamins, a new study suggests.

Findings from the COSMOS-Web study, published Wednesday in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggest a link between daily multivitamin supplement use and slowing the cognitive decline that accompanies aging.

"Cognitive aging is a top health concern for older adults, and this study suggests that there may be a simple, inexpensive way to help older adults slow down memory decline," study leader Dr. Adam Brickman said in a statement.

Led by the Columbia University professor of neuropsychology, the research team analyzed 3,562 older adults who randomly received a multivitamin supplement or a placebo.

The COSMOS-Web study is the latest research in a larger clinical trial.Getty Images/iStockphoto

The participants, aged 60 and above, were observed for three years, completing a cognitive assessment annually to determine how the supplements — or lack thereof — were affecting the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory and is impacted during aging.

When compared to the group who ingested the placebo, participants who took multivitamin supplements performed better on memory tests as early as after the first year, sustaining the results for the duration of the three-year study.

The improvement was estimated to be the same as about three years of memory decline.

"Our study shows that the aging brain may be more sensitive to nutrition than we realized, though it may not be so important to find out which specific nutrient helps slow age-related cognitive decline," study author and postdoctoral researcher Dr. Lok-Kin Yeung said.

The supplements had more of an effect in people with underlying cardiovascular disease, researchers said, although they could not explain why.

"There is evidence that people with cardiovascular disease may have lower micronutrient levels that multivitamins may correct, but we don't really know right now why the effect is stronger in this group," Brickman said.

The study authors suggested that multivitamins could play a role in curbing the memory loss that comes with age.Getty Images

The COSMOS-Web study is part of a larger clinical trial, the COcoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study (COSMOS), led by Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, a teaching hospital affiliated with Harvard Medical School.

The most recent findings reinforce last year's COSMOS-Mind study of more than 2,000 older adults, which found that their cognition, memory recall and attention improved overall with multivitamins.

"The finding that a daily multivitamin improved memory in two separate cognition 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 study co-author Dr. JoAnn Manson, the chief of the Division of Preventive Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

But experts have offered mixed reviews of multivitamins' effectiveness and safety in recent years.

"Supplementation of any kind shouldn't take the place of more holistic ways of getting the same micronutrients," said Brickman. "Though multivitamins are generally safe, people should always consult a physician before taking them."

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