According to Harvard’s School of Public Health, about half of adults in the U.S. and 70 percent of older adults (71+) take a vitamin; with about one-third of them incorporating a comprehensive multivitamin pill. But some question whether it’s really necessary to take a daily multivitamin. Well, findings from a new study reveal that taking a multivitamin is especially beneficial to improve brain health. The research, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in May 2023, showed that taking a multivitamin (for at least one year) was associated with improved memory and cognition equivalent to reversing age-related memory loss by three years.
This recently published COcoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study (COSMOS) was a randomized clinical trial inclusive of 3,562 participants (aged 60 and over). Those in the “vitamin group” far surpassed the placebo group when improved brain function was analyzed.
“The benefits of taking a multivitamin were maintained throughout the three years of the study. This confirms numerous earlier studies showing that folate (simple folic acid) dramatically lowers dementia risk,” says board certified internist Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D., a published researcher focused on effective treatments for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), fibromyalgia and other conditions. While not one of the COSMOS study authors, Dr. Teitelbaum is an advocate for nutritional supplementation as a complement to the standard American diet and typical medical therapies.
More Tips to Improve Brain Health
Dr. Teitelbaum says he has a dozen suggestions for patients looking to improve brain health:
(1) Take Your Multivitamins in Multiple Forms: Again, in line with the COSMOS findings, Dr. Teitelbaum believes taking a multivitamin is a simple way to improve brain health. In addition to a daily multivitamin, he recommends supplementing with a good B complex, folate, vitamin D and magnesium.
“The reason doctors have traditionally been slow to recommend multivitamins is because their training has been pharmaceutical-focused and sorely deficient in nutritional education. This new COSMOS study is an important step towards setting the record straight—and represents a wakeup call to clinicians, researchers and media that cover latest medical findings,” he says.
It’s important to note that a multivitamin cannot replace a balanced, nutrient-dense diet. A multivitamin is taken to fill in nutritional gaps; not serve as a stand-alone solution.
“The [COSMOS] study simply used Centrum Silver. I much prefer Clinical Essentials as it is likely far more effective for overall health (e.g., research shows adding the 150 mg of magnesium in the Clinical Essentials is associated with a 22 percent lower diabetes risk, which would also lower dementia risk). The Clinical Essentials would also address the elevated homocysteine component,” Dr. Teitelbaum tells AmeriDisability.
“The meta-analysis of 12 randomized studies with 766 dementia patients, showed that phototherapy with bright light, as is used for treating Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), significantly improved cognition,” Dr. Teitelbaum shared. “Lower dementia risk was also associated with other ways of getting vitamin D, a deficiency which has been associated with dementia.”
(3) Hear This: Hearing aids, now available over-the-counter, are also a powerful tool for reducing dementia risk. Dr. Teitelbaum cites a UK observational study that found that untreated hearing loss contributed to a 42 percent increase in dementia risk compared to peers who had no hearing troubles.
(4) Make Egg-cellent Choices: A nutritional study covered in Science Daily found that people who ate diets rich in phosphatidylcholine, found in eggs and other foods, were 28 percent less likely to develop dementia.
(5) Get Moving: Dr. Teitelbaum says that no medications yet invented will reduce dementia risk by 50 percent. However, science shows that walking 10,000 steps a day may do the trick, as reported in JAMA Neurology. It’s important to note that statistics show that people with disabilities are less likely to be of healthy weight and more likely to be obese than people without disabilities. However, options for accessible equipment and/or modifiable exercises are aplenty so physical activity may be attainable for people of all abilities, including those unable to walk the recommended amount of steps.
(6) Bore that Snore: Do address sleep apnea as recent research published in Neurology in May 2023 has correlated it with loss of brain volume and accelerated Alzheimer’s.
(7) Hit the Sheets: Harvard researchers recommend getting at least six to eight hours of sleep per night to reduce the risk of dementia and death. Plus, ample sleep can help lower risk for serious health problems (like diabetes and heart disease), reduce stress and improve your mood, among other benefits.
(8) Say Bye to UTIs: The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease notes that it’s important to eliminate silent infections, including urinary tract infections (UTIs) which are common in older adults, to prevent cognitive decline.
(9) Be OK with PEPCID: Dr. Teitelbaum cites the JAMA Neurology with advice to avoid PPI acid blockers, which can create as much as a 44 percent higher risk of dementia. Use Pepcid instead, he suggests.
(10) Consider HRT: More than two-thirds of Alzheimer’s patients are women, which likely correlates with reduced estrogen levels following menopause. Although notably controversial, female hormone replacement may help slow cognitive changes. A January 2023 study in Alzheimer’s Research and Therapy suggests that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) could provide needed protection. Dr. Teitelbaum endorses bio-identical hormones instead of the pharmaceutical version.
(11) Spice Up Your Life: Curried foods containing turmeric (and the active ingredient curcumin) are promising for reducing Alzheimer’s risk which, Dr. Teitelbaum says, is 70 percent lower in India than the U.S.
(12) Pain, Pain Go Away: Chronic pain is associated with escalated brain aging. “Our published research shows that treating the root causes of pain can often make the pain go away,” says Dr. Teitelbaum. “Just like putting oil in a car makes the oil light go off. And according to research published in the Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, this unnecessary chronic pain is associated with eight years of excess brain aging.
Editor’s Note: AmeriDisability is a digital publication that aims to inform and inspire. We do not claim to offer medical advice. All individuals should talk with their physicians about medical-related care, including diet, exercise, vitamins/supplements and debilitating conditions.