New Information About Multivitamin Supplements and Cognition

Multivitamin supplements are popular. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data from 2017-2020 found that nearly 32 percent of American adults and nearly 24 percent of children took a daily multivitamin, making it the most used dietary supplement in the United States. 

While some health experts feel a multivitamin supplement is not necessary, a 2018 Delphi Consensus Panel Report came to the following conclusions:

  • Multivitamin supplements can broadly improve micronutrient intakes.
  • There are specific biological processes and health outcomes associated with micronutrient deficiencies.
  • Adequate intake of these micronutrients is necessary for normal biological functioning required for good health.
  • In some instances, higher than recommended micronutrient intakes have the potential to provide additional health benefits.
  • The use of a multivitamin supplement is one approach to ensuring adequate micronutrient needs are met.
  • Long-term use of multivitamin supplements not exceeding the upper limit of recommended intakes is safe in healthy adults.
  • Multivitamin supplement formulations can be individualized according to age, sex, life cycle, or other selected characteristics.

There is insufficient evidence indicating that multivitamin supplements are effective for primary prevention of chronic conditions such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Specific to cancer, in 2022 the well-known COSMOS trial published data showing there was no significant effect of a daily multivitamin in the prevention of breast and colon cancer; however, there was a protective effect with lung cancer. While more research is needed regarding chronic conditions, new research demonstrates that taking a multivitamin supplement has cognitive benefits.

Protecting Memory and Learning

It is estimated that nearly one in four Americans will be 65 or older by the year 2060, which puts them at increased risk of cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and related dementias. Preventing and/or delaying cognitive decline has become a key clinical goal. Newly published data from the COSMOS  trial indicates that taking a multivitamin may be a safe and effective intervention to help protect memory and learning.

The COSMOS data also included an analysis of three cognitive studies within COSMOS that found that taking a multivitamin supplement daily benefits both global cognition and episodic memory. The study featured adults aged 60 and older and demonstrated that taking a daily multivitamin reduced cognitive decline by two years compared to placebo. The authors concluded, “These findings within the COSMOS trial support the benefits of a daily MVM in preventing cognitive decline in older adults.”

“There is an urgent need to identify safe, effective strategies to preserve memory and cognition to reduce the burden that cognitive decline has on individuals, families, and society,” said Duffy MacKay, ND, Senior Vice President of Dietary Supplements with the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. “The results of this latest study are important because they show how multivitamin supplements can help aging adults meet their daily nutrient needs to help protect and enhance cognitive function.”

According to the Linus Pauling Institute, adherence to US Dietary Guidelines regarding nutrient-dense foods is low in the United States and as a result, there is a high prevalence of select micronutrient inadequacies and deficiencies. 

“Even individuals with a healthy diet often fail to reach the recommended daily intake levels for key vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients,” said MacKay. “Seeing the positive results from this latest study once again reinforces the beneficial role multivitamin supplements can play in safely optimizing health through responsible self-care.”