As you age, there are an increasing number of health risks you should be aware of, and getting enough of the right vitamins and minerals can be a major factor in avoiding many illnesses. Sometimes, your diet can equip you with everything you need, but the effects of ageing on the body can make supplementation necessary as you reach a certain age.
Whether through food or supplements, there are some essential nutrients you should be taking care to consume as you get older.
Let us take a look at common nutrients and supplements, their possible benefits, potential drawbacks and recommended daily doses:
|Supplement||Benefits||Drawbacks||Recommended Daily Dose|
|Calcium||– Supports bone health – Aids in nerve, muscle, and cellular function||– Can lead to constipation – Increased risk of kidney stones||1000-1200 mg|
|Vitamin D||– Enhances calcium absorption – Supports immune function||– Nausea, vomiting if excessive – Muscle weakness||800-2000 IU|
|Omega-3 Fatty Acids||– Supports heart health – Reduces inflammation and joint pain||– Thins blood – Digestive issues||250-500 mg of EPA and DHA|
|B Vitamins||– Boosts energy – Supports brain and cognitive function||– Excessive energy, insomnia if excessive – Potential nerve damage||Varies per specific B vitamin|
|Magnesium||– Supports muscle and nerve function – Promotes heart health||– Diarrhea, stomach cramping if excessive – Lowered blood pressure||320-420 mg|
|Probiotics||– Aids digestion – Supports immune function||– Gas, bloating – Effects vary by strain||Varies by strain and CFU|
|Zinc||– Supports immune health – Aids in wound healing||– Stomach cramps, nausea if excessive – Lowered immunity||8-11 mg|
|Fibre||– Aids digestion and bowel movements – Supports heart health||– Bloating, gas, cramping if excessive – May interfere with medication absorption||25-30 g|
These recommendations are general and may need to be adjusted based on individual health status, dietary intake, and your specific health needs. Always seek the advice of your doctor or a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen.
How do your Nutritional Needs Change as you Age?
Nutrients and Supplements In Your 50s
During your 50s, bone loss accelerates, making it more important than ever to get plenty of vitamin D and calcium. Calcium strengthens the bones, while vitamin D helps the bones to absorb calcium. The recommended intake for adults is typically 700mg of calcium and 400-800 IU (international units) of vitamin D per day, but this rises to 1000mg of calcium and 800-1000 IU of vitamin D for those over the age of 50.
Dairy foods are great for boosting your calcium intake, and rich sources of vitamin D include eggs, salmon and other oily fish. Sunlight is also an ideal source of vitamin D.
Increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids as you age is also useful, as they help to prevent irregular heartbeats, reduce plaque build-up in the arteries, inhibit inflammation and keep blood sugar levels in check. Studies have linked omega-3 fatty acids to a reduced risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s and even cancer. The recommended daily intake is 1000mg per day and good sources include salmon, flaxseed oils and walnuts.
Getting older makes your system more vulnerable to unhealthy bacteria, and probiotics can help to limit this. Probiotics reintroduce good bacteria to your gut, enhancing its ability to absorb healthy bacteria – an ability which is hindered by an unhealthy gut. This means they can help you to get the most out of all of the other vitamins and minerals you’re consuming.
Probiotics can be found in yogurt, kefir and dark chocolate.
Nutrients and Supplements In Your 60s
Research has suggested that a vitamin B12 deficiency can increase the risk of dementia in older adults, so it’s advisable to maintain healthy levels of this particular vitamin. Experts recommend getting 2.4 micrograms a day.
However, stomach acid, which allows the body to absorb the vitamin from food, begins to decline during your 50s, so you should get your vitamin B12 levels checked to see if taking supplements is necessary. Good food sources include clams, trout and beef liver.
Getting enough vitamin D is just as important in your 60s as in your 50s. As well as enhancing the bones’ absorption of calcium, more recent research has shown that it can reduce chronic pain and help to prevent heart disease.
As you get older, your body’s ability to synthesise vitamin D from sunlight declines, causing intake to drop, which can sometimes make supplementation necessary. Supplements containing vitamin D3 are particularly helpful for older individuals.
You should also continue to be mindful of your omega-3 intake. Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to better blood flow in the brain and increased growth of brain cells, as well as enhanced memory and improved mood. At this age, your brain may be less able to absorb the benefits which again, could mean supplements are needed.
Nutrients and Supplements In Your 70s
When you hit your 70s, you may want to increase your protein intake. At this age, your ability to build muscle mass deteriorates, so your protein needs grow despite the diminished appetite you will most likely be experiencing.
Losing too much muscle mass prevents your immune system from functioning properly, so supplementing your diet with protein powders or pills may be recommended to increase lean body mass and muscle. 20-30mg of whey powder mixed into a daily shake can have a real positive impact.
Good food sources of protein include beef, chicken and beans.
For details of 10 natural fruit and vegetable extracts to look out for in supplements, no matter what your age, why not read our earlier article.
Finally, if you have any concerns about your diet or use of supplements, don’t hesitate to ask your GP, practice nurse or pharmacist.
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