Selecting dietary supplements can seem overwhelming. Despite online sources claiming that they are the “best multivitamin for women over 50” or the “best vitamins for men over 50,” you may be wondering what nutrients are best for you personally. From senior probiotic dietary supplements to general multivitamins, this article has all the information you need.
Keep reading for the best multivitamin for seniors, how to find the best vitamin supplements for older adults, and more.
Nutrient Needs for Seniors
Technically, every vitamin is an essential nutrient. The word “vitamin” shares a root with the word “vital”, communicating just how essential they are.
Senior bodies sometimes struggle to absorb nutrients from food, which can make taking dietary supplements necessary. Additionally, seniors may be on medications that make getting adequate amounts of a specific nutrient difficult.
As implied by the name, supplements are meant to supplement the amount of vitamins and minerals the body gets from food first. Supplements can be a crucial part of your wellness routine that helps you meet your health goals.
Vitamin Supplements for Older Adults
To avoid deficiency, it’s important to consider supplementing the following vitamins and minerals.
Not sure whether your vitamins are at low levels, or need help making sense of symptoms? Talk to a dietitian, doctor, or another member of your healthcare team about diagnostic tests to confirm before moving forward.
Along with vitamin D and calcium, the recommended daily amount of vitamin B6 is higher for older adults (when compared to young adults). Vitamin B6 plays a critical role in metabolism, or in other words, energy production in the body. It also helps your body keep up immunity and participates in the process of forming blood cells.
Vitamin B12 is another vital nutrient. It keeps cells and nerves functioning optimally. Along with vitamin B6, vitamin B12 can decrease in absorption with age. Vegetarians and vegans are at greater risk for deficiency, since many B vitamins come from animal-sourced food.
Seniors may struggle to obtain the right amount of B12, even from food sources. Instead of waiting for fatigue or anemia to strike, ask your healthcare team about supplementing with a B-complex vitamin.
Calcium absorption decreases with age, which can negatively affect bone health. Need for muscle and nerve health as well, calcium is crucial to helping the body maintain normal function. Older adults with lactose intolerance may be particularly susceptible to a calcium deficiency, since dairy is a good source of calcium and generally excluded from their diet.
Too much calcium or improper supplementation can cause kidney stones and other adverse effects. It’s important to discuss with your doctor or dietitian what form and amount is right for you.
The majority of adults aren’t getting enough fiber each day. Fiber helps the body digest food properly. Plus, it’s a key nutrient in preventing heart disease, diabetes, and even certain cancers.
Like many other nutrients, experts prefer you get your fiber from food first. However, fiber can also be obtained from supplements in some cases. Two common fiber supplements are psyllium (i.e. Metamucil) and methylcellulose (i.e. Citrucel).
You’ve heard it before, but it’s worth mentioning again. Proteins are truly the building blocks for each cell in the body. They help cells function properly, help keep you full, and are also crucial in cases of healing.
Depending on your activity level, protein can also help with endurance. At the very least, the proper protein amounts enable you to avoid malnutrition and loss of muscle.
Many people worry about sagging skin as they age. However, they often don’t consider that the skin may be losing more than elasticity.
Vitamin D is converted to a form the body can use when the skin is exposed to sunlight. This function becomes less efficient with age, though.
Making sure to get 15-30 minutes of direct sunlight each day can help, but it may not be manageable for some seniors (i.e. those with disabilities). Instead, supplements can help support the body in creating sufficient amounts. Vitamin D is found in small amounts and in only a few foods, so supplement use is common.
As a plus, vitamin D also supports calcium absorption. Your healthcare team may recommend you supplement vitamin D and calcium together.
Tips for Choosing the Best Multivitamin or Supplement
While every senior is different, many need the help of supplements to meet their nutrient needs. A multivitamin can be a great place to start. Essentially, a multivitamin designed for adults over 50 can cover your basic nutrient needs.
Here are some basic tips for adding supplements to your diet safely.
Ask an Expert
If you want to increase your awareness about a certain supplement, your doctor or dietitian can be a wealth of information. Dietitians can help you increase amounts of nutrients in your diet, and are licensed to suggest supplements when necessary.
Doctors can help you find out what supplements work with your current medications or other health complications. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!
Look at Labels
Reading labels can seem tricky, but it’s a skill developed like anything else (with practice). Some phrases like “all-natural” can be misleading, so it is best to look directly at the nutrition facts.
Find percentages of daily values on the nutrition panel, and steer clear of unnecessary additions when you examine the ingredients. Look for third-party tested supplements, which have been through an extra level of testing for your safety.
Start Slow and Low
Starting too high a dose too soon can turn you off to supplements. Instead, talk with your doctor or dietitian about your recommended dose, and when to increase it. For many vitamins and minerals, there is an upper limit (UL). It’s important to stay under this amount so you can experience the benefits and minimize the risks.
The National Institute on Aging has a great guide that lists food sources to get nutrients from first, followed by the recommended levels to supplement with when necessary.
Consider Starting a Probiotic
Although it’s not strictly a supplement, probiotics in the diet are known to help improve gut health. If fermented foods aren’t your thing, try adding a probiotic supplement to your daily regimen to help with digestive discomfort.
In Summary On Supplements for Seniors
Getting enough nutrients each day is important at every age. However, consuming enough vitamins and minerals is especially essential for seniors.
Improve body function all the way down to cellular health by talking with your doctor about starting a multivitamin or other supplement.
Dietary Supplements for Older Adults. National Institute on Aging. Published April 2021. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/dietary-supplements-older-adults.