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Does cocoa extract and a multivitamin improve cognitive function? Boston researchers report ‘promising’ results

Is there a single dietary supplement out there that helps with everything as we age? Probably not, but local researchers have certainly found some “promising” results when it comes to cocoa extract and a multivitamin.

After the Brigham and Women’s Hospital researchers earlier this year discovered that cocoa flavanol supplements may cut down cardiovascular risk, the Boston scientists have now learned that taking a multivitamin mineral may improve cognition in older adults.

In their randomized trial, they found that older people who took a daily multivitamin — a Centrum Silver equivalent — for three years experienced better global cognition, episodic memory and executive function compared to the study participants who took a placebo. Also, the multivitamin benefit appeared to be greater for adults with cardiovascular disease.

Overall, taking the multivitamin every day for three years appeared to slow aging by 1.8 years, or by 60%.

“This is certainly a promising finding,” said Brigham associate epidemiologist Howard Sesso, but he noted that a daily multivitamin had no significant effect on cardiovascular events.

While the cocoa flavanol compound can reduce cardiovascular death by 27%, the researchers found no cognitive benefit of daily cocoa extract — containing 500 mg flavanols — for three years.

“There was some improvement with taking the cocoa flavanol versus the placebo, but it was not a statistically significant difference,” added Sesso, who’s also an associate professor of medicine.

“For the cocoa flavanol, we saw very promising findings for cardiovascular disease but not necessarily for cognition,” he said. “We’ll see what we find with further studies.”

Sesso noted that there have been no safety concerns for either cocoa flavanols or a multivitamin.

These results on cognitive outcomes was published in “Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.”

“Can these supplements help reduce dementia or Alzheimer’s disease? We’re going to be looking at that in the future,” Sesso said.

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