Vitamins become more significant to our health as we age, especially when we reach age 50 and above. But, with so many supplements available to us, it can be difficult to make out which vitamins are actually worth taking.
We spoke with Dr. Lindsay Jones-Born, ND to find out which five vitamins have the most benefits to our health later in life.
Vitamins Impact on Senior Health
Vitamins play an important role in our health, from supporting development to boosting the immune system, but over age 50, nutrients become more vital to our well-being. Adults 51-70 years old will need more nutrients in greater amounts, as medications often prescribed to this age group begin to deplete vitamins like: “CoQ10, Vitamin K, Magnesium, B1, Calcium, Folic Acid, Vitamin C, B12, Chromium, Zinc, Iron, and Beta-Carotene,” says Dr. Jones-Born.
The loss of such essential nutrients to your body can lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies in many seniors. In order to stay healthy and fit, Dr. Jones-Born suggests adding a whole foods multivitamin to your diet, as a good way to take in those extra nutrients.
More Is Not Always Better
Although it’s important to supplement our health with more nutrients as we age, it’s also necessary to remember that with certain vitamins, “more is not always better.” Some vitamins, for instance, can be toxic when used in mega-doses, like Vitamin A, Vitamin D, and Iron.
Before you add any supplements or make any changes to your diet, be sure to speak with your doctor about the effects they could have on your health.
Five Supplements Worth Taking
With all the vitamins available to us, it can be difficult to make out which vitamins are worth taking, but here are five recommended for optimum senior health.
Calcium is essential to women to prevent bone loss that leads to osteoporosis after menopause, but it is also important for men, who may experience bone loss in later years as well. Dr. Jones-Born recommends taking it with Vitamin D to maximize absorption. This combination has been shown in trials to decrease rates of falls in seniors, and those that do fall have been found to be less likely to fracture a hip. Be sure to eat dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale, and make sure to get some dairy or fortified orange juice in your diet every day. It is recommended that seniors take 1200 mg of Calcium daily, through food and supplements, due to bone loss. This is 200 mg more than needed by younger adults.
Zinc is essential for at least 100 enzymatic reactions throughout the body. It plays a crucial role in immunity, wound healing, and a proper sense of taste and smell. Recent research published in Evolutionary Psychology says that Zinc supplementation may ward off depression by helping important neurotransmitters to travel through the brain more easily. Preliminary research published in Alternative Medicine Review also shows that Zinc may serve as a treatment for arthritis by reducing inflammation throughout the body. Found in oysters, meat, and poultry, Zinc supplementation may be necessary if you have a vegetarian or highly processed diet.
“Most American diets are deficient in Magnesium regardless of age, but it is especially important in seniors because it is involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body,”
says Dr. Jones-Born. Magnesium helps to regulate blood sugar levels, and there is strong evidence that it can be helpful in the treatment of type 2 diabetes. It is also important for bone density, blood pressure, and muscle and nerve function. Many seniors are on prescription medications that may inhibit the absorption of magnesium, so it is important to include magnesium rich foods, such as nuts, seeds, and whole grains, in your diet, or take a supplement.
4. Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 helps keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy. It also plays a role in preventing anemia and even memory loss. “All seniors eventually develop a condition called atrophic gastritis that decreases their ability to absorb vitamin B12 from food and supplements, so sublingual B12 is preferred,” according to Dr. Jones-Born.
5. Omega 3 Fatty Acids: EPA and DHA
Richard Draves, VP of Product Development at American Seafoods Group, has a lot of great things to say about fish oil supplements, which are rich in the Omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA.
“For Seniors, there are a significant number of reasons to supplement with Omega-3’s. Aside from the well-publicized heart-healthy and brain-healthy benefits, Omega-3’s have been shown to reduce the symptoms of dry-eye syndrome, which is reported to affect a majority of Americans over the age of 65. Relatively high doses of Omega-3’s have been shown to reduce the pain and complications of Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Omega-3 supplementation has been linked to a reduction in depression and depressive-like symptoms, a common issue in the elderly population.”
Low levels of DHA have also been linked to memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease, but very high levels of 800-900 mg per day have actually been shown to reverse memory loss and aid in verbal recognition, according to an article in Alzheimer’s and Dementia: A Journal by the Alzheimer’s Association. There is a large variation in the quality and type of fish oil, so make sure that you choose one that has at least a combined 500 mg of DHA and EPA per day.
Supplements and Dementia Prevention
Along with a healthy lifestyle, supplements can help ward off age related memory problems. “Ginkgo leaf extract really seems to improve cognitive function in some elderly people with mild to moderate cognitive impairment,” says Dr. Jones-Born. New research also suggests that a mix of B Vitamins could be more effective in fighting dementia.
There is a lot on the horizon, and a naturopathic approach to dementia makes more and more sense. Socialization and exercise remain the number one way to delay the onset of cognitive decline, but supplements can make a great addition to a long and healthy life.
Do you take supplements? If so, which do you enjoy taking? What benefits have you noticed from them? Tell us in the comments below.