Will A Multivitamin a Day Keep Dementia Away?

Laura Baker, PhD, and associates of Wake Forest University reported in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia that taking a Centrum multivitamin daily seemed to improve cognitive function in senior citizens. The COSMOS-Mind study included 2262 participants with a mean age of 73 years. Sixty percent were women, almost 90% were Caucasian and none had a history of heart attack or stroke. The study looked at the effects of chocolate in the form of cocoa extract or a multivitamin on memory and cognitive function. The patients were followed for three years.

Daily multivitamin supplementation led to improvement in both memory and executive function. The effect was most pronounced in participants with cardiovascular disease. The researchers’ predictive formulas or “modeling” suggested that three years of multivitamin supplementation might slow cognitive aging by 60% or 1.8 years. In previous studies performed on older male physicians, this type of supplement did not reveal any cognitive benefits. In the Women’s Health Initiative this type of benefit did show some protection against certain malignant diseases, but no evaluation of cognitive function was performed.

The Alzheimer’s Association was encouraged by the findings but called for further randomized studies before they felt comfortable recommending a daily multivitamin. As a practicing physician, I see no downside to taking a Centrum multivitamin as long as patients read the label and make sure they are not taking any other fat-soluble vitamins (A, E, D, K) which can accumulate and, in large doses, cause toxicity.

I ask my patients to bring their vitamins and supplements to the office to read the labels or show me a photo of the labels if they feel uncomfortable performing this review themselves.