Many consumers have been convinced that taking a multi vitamin/mineral is a waste of money. Unfortunately they’re missing out on what could possibly be the easiest step to take in protecting their long-term health.

Repeated surveys show even the most diet-conscious consumers have gaps in accomplishing an adequate daily intake of both macro and micro nutrients.

In December 2020 a panel of experts testified to Congress that Americans are especially deficient in vitamins A, C and D, and the mineral zinc.

While these nutrient deficiencies affect every aspect of health—from minor aches and pain to heart disease—two studies in the past year highlight how important a basic supplement is in the cognitive health arena.

According to the latest study a daily multivitamin provided significant benefits in the memory performance of older adults. In fact, according to the researchers, the effect of the multivitamin intervention was so profound it “improved memory performance above placebo by the equivalent of 3.1 years of age-related memory change.”

Study details

To conduct the study researchers utilized data from the large-scale COcoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study (COSMOS).

COSMOS included two separate clinical trials: COSMOS-Web and COSMOS-Mind. The earlier results from the COSMOS-Mind study, which was published in September 2022, already demonstrated improved cognition benefits when taking a daily vitamin/mineral supplement.

Now the new findings, based on the separate COSMOS-Web study, is corroborating the earlier study. The new study included 3,500 participants aged 60 and older.

To conduct the study, participants were randomized to a daily multivitamin group or placebo group for three years.

At the end of each year, the participants were subjected to a series of online cognitive assessments designed to test memory function of the hippocampus, an area of the brain that is affected by normal aging.

Promising results

By the end of the first year results showed memory had improved in the 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.

The study was funded in part by the US National Institutes of Health and results were published online in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in May 2023.

“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 in Boston and a co-leader of the parent COSMOS trial.

Though this particular study was limited to older adults, it builds on numerous earlier studies that already demonstrated the benefits of a daily multi vitamin/mineral in all age groups and for numerous aspects of health.

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.

Poor choice of test product?

Both Cosmos studies used a well-known widely-available vitamin/mineral product designed for seniors. It was likely chosen since its target customer was the same as researchers: aging men and women . Also, it is a ubiquitous product across America, available at all big box stores.

Many supplement advocates have questioned the choice of this product since it is made entirely from synthetic ingredients. This means all the vitamins and minerals in the product are chemical-based and primarily sourced from China.

According to those with a preference for whole food products, it is almost certain that results would have been even more impressive if a “closer to nature” whole food product had been used instead.

If you’d prefer the whole food option for your own daily vitamin/mineral, check out Whole Food Vitamin•Mineral from Optimal Health Systems.

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Sources: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Cosmostrial.org, Council for Responsible Nutrition (via NutraIngredients.com).