The Scoop on Seniors and Vitamins

by Allie Brito June 05, 2017

The Scoop on Seniors and Vitamins

It’s not an uncommon situation. An older adult living alone starts experience frequent fatigue, loss of appetite, and even joint pain. Getting up and down the stairs isn’t as easy as it used to be, and some days its hard to even get out of bed because they are so tired. They start wondering- are they finally getting old? Is it about time to start using those days of the week pill boxes? Should they be taking vitamins? If so, which vitamins are safe and which ones aren’t?

According to US Health News, more than 40 percent of men and women in the United States use multivitamins- the most commonly used being dietary supplements. People often take dietary supplements for a variety of reasons with different goals in mind, and with so many brands and methods of consumption, it can be overwhelming to know whether dietary supplements are right for you, or where to start if you are interested. Many aging adults are looking to these products as a means to slow down the hands of time, but how do we know which vitamins are best for adults over the age of 50?

What Is a Dietary Supplement? 

A nutritional supplement by design, is a product intended to be used in conjunction with a diet and contains at least one dietary ingredient such as vitamins, or minerals. Vitamins and minerals are nutrients that your body needs in small amounts to stay healthy and functioning at an optimal level. The amount we need depends on a number of things like age, gender, weight, and on which vitamin or mineral you’re taking. Since your body can only make limited amounts of vitamins for itself, the rest of that nutrition must come from a healthy diet.

As individuals age, their nutritional needs change due to their bodies absorbing and storing nutrients differently. Many older adults do not eat a sufficient amount of calories thus they are rarely obtaining an adequate amount of the essential nutrients their bodies need. In these cases, you may want to consider adding a supplement to make up for the nutrients your diet fails to get you on a daily basis.

Should I Take a Dietary Supplement Since I’m Over 50?

Remember, you should not treat yourself with over-the-counter supplements without first talking to your doctor or a certified nutritionist. Reason being, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) checks prescription meds and antibiotics, as well as over-the-counter drugs like pain and cold medicines. The same cannot be said for dietary supplements. The FDA simply does not watch over dietary supplements in the same way as they do with other medicines, because they don’t consider dietary supplements to be medicine. Thus, just because a product is on a store shelf, does not mean it is safe or that its ingredients are being regulated.

Talk to your doctor or a qualified pharmacist who knows how these substances could react with current medications you take, your diet, and recommend a trusted brand. A professional will work with you and help you decide whether you need to change your diet or take supplements to compensate for any of these common deficiencies seen in aging adults:

  •  Vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 helps to keep your red blood cells and your nerves healthy. Vitamin B12 is mainly found in shellfish, fish, meat, and many dairy products. As people age, some have trouble absorbing the vitamin B12 that is naturally found in their food. They can choose foods, like fortified cereals, that have this vitamin added or use a B12 supplement.
  • Calcium. Calcium works with vitamin D to keep bones strong at all ages which is incredibly important. Bone loss or deterioration can lead to fractures in both older women and men. Calcium is found in milk and milk products (fat-free or low-fat is best), canned fish with soft bones, dark-green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale, and foods with calcium added like many breakfast cereals or nutritional shakes.
  • Vitamin D. Many people’s bodies make enough vitamin D if they are in the sun for 10 to 15 minutes at least twice a week. However, if you are older, you may not be able to get enough vitamin D that way due to limited mobility. Try adding vitamin D-fortified milk and milk products, vitamin D-fortified cereals, and fatty fish to your diet, and/or use a vitamin D supplement.
  • Vitamin B6. This vitamin is another nutrient needed to form red blood cells. It is found in potatoes, bananas, chicken breasts, and fortified cereals.
For a complete list with more detailed explanation of vitamins recommended for seniors, check out US News Article, “The Best Vitamins and Minerals for Seniors”. 

    What Can I Do As I Age to Stay Healthy?

    Stay proactive. As you age, vitamin and mineral supplements can certainly keep you healthy in moderation and when used as directed. However, it is important that you use them appropriately and along with healthy, balanced diet and regular exercise routine. By speaking to your doctor and pharmacist about your supplement use, you can reap the benefits of supplementation while avoiding any unwanted or unexpected side effects. Make sure you always do your research, attempt to understand the science behind what each nutrient does, and most importantly, listen to your body. If you start taking a new supplement and notice adverse affects, talk to your doctor immediately.


    For More Information Here are some helpful resources:

    Food and Drug Administration Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition

    5100 Paint Branch Parkway College Park, MD 20740

    1-888-723-3366 (toll-free)

    National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine NCCAM Clearinghouse

    P.O. Box 7923 Gaithersburg, MD 20898

    1-888-644-6226 (toll-free) 1-866-464-3615 (TTY/toll-free)

    National Library of Medicine MedlinePlus

    Office of Dietary Supplements National Institutes of Health

    6100 Executive Boulevard Room 3B01, MSC 7517 Bethesda, MD 20892-7517



    Allie Brito
    Allie Brito


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