Ideally, you should be getting all of your nutrients from the food you eat. However, this is impractical for many seniors and aging poses many difficulties for obtaining the nutrients you need. Also, as you age the ability for you to get all the nutrients you need from food declines.
In fact, once you reach the age of 50, your need for supplementation greatly increases. While choosing fortified foods can certainly help, this is simply not enough. You have to supplement to get all the nutrients your body needs.
Now that you know you need supplements, there is still a problem. The problem is that you don’t know what supplements you need. Especially with all the information out there, it is really hard to know exactly what supplements you need. In fact, some websites are just dead wrong and can provide your with knowledge that is dangerous to your health.
Choosing the Right Website for Supplement Information
Look for websites that link to outside sources (and reputable sources) or sites that are run by doctors and are not for profit. A good example is the website Nutrition Facts run by Dr. Michael Greger. His website grew out of his personal passion to help people and he gives all of his profits away to charity.
Just be careful when looking up information online and use common sense. Look for websites with “.edu” and “.gov” on the end of the website name. It used to be that “.org” was more reputable but now this isn’t necessarily the case. However, “.org” sites are still a good choice in most cases, just go to the about page on the website and make sure they are not motivated by the wrong incentives.
How to Choose the Right Supplements
First and foremost, you should discuss what the best supplements for you are with your doctor. This is the most important step in the process because some supplements may interact with medication you are taking. For instance, many supplements, as well as herbs, spices and teas, can interact with blood thinning medication, so it is important to check with your doctor just to be on the safe side.
Next, it should be obvious that most supplements on the market do not do anything. Go to your local store and just look at home many bottles are there on the shelves. What are the odds that all of those bottles do something helpful for someone? If this was the case, there wouldn’t be so many choices.
The problem is that supplements are not regulated by the FDA and many supplement manufacturers prey on desperate people looking to cure their ailments. Furthermore, since the supplements are not regulated by the FDA, they may contain harmful substances or contaminants, or the supplement itself may in fact hurt you.
Lastly, just use some plain old common sense. Odds are, if you never heard of the supplement or it has some exotic name, like “Ojibwa,” it’s probably long on promises and short on results. Also, if it hasn’t been out for a long time there hasn’t been enough time to study what it does. This is true with prescription medicine as well. However, there is much less risk associated with prescription medicine because it at least is tested by the FDA and has to make it through other regulatory bodies.
Supplementation Needs of the Aging Person
Many seniors, and even older adults, have nutrition-related problems that severely impact their health and quality of life. In fact, nutrition is the most important way to treat various diseases (heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, cancer, etc.) and even prevent them from occurring in the first place. This is why it is important to know what your nutritional and supplement needs are as your age.
Nutritional deficiencies in senior citizens:
- Protein deficiency
- Caloric deficiency
- Water and hydration
- Healthy fats
Many might be surprised to see many of the items on this list. Who would think that they are malnourished? Who would think that they are dehydrated? Western diets are also full of protein, so why would seniors not be getting enough protein in their diets?
There are many reasons for these deficits. For one, medications can impact the body’s ability to absorb various nutrients. Dentures (tooth problems) and other medical devices can often make eating foods very difficult for seniors. Skipping meals, eating the wrong foods, and drinking excessively can also impact the level of nutrition that seniors receive. Even lack of sunlight can cause vitamin deficiency.
Getting healthy foods, such as health fats, into the body also takes a lot of energy and mobility, which many seniors lack, in order to be able to cook a proper meal. Many of these foods also require a lot of chewing and swallowing, which many seniors might not be able to do. Lastly, many seniors do not eat properly because they suffer from digestive problems which get in the way of eating regularly.
Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies in Seniors and the Elderly:
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Coenzyme Q10
These are just a few of the vitamins and minerals seniors lack. The problem is that all of these vitamins and minerals are essential in order to live the best life possible. Let’s take a look at some of the best supplements to counteract these deficiencies as well as why some of these may occur in the first place.
15 Best Supplements for Seniors
It is estimate that up to one in five seniors over seventy skip meals throughout the day. Seniors and the elderly also have trouble chewing and swallowing food. Medication also interferes with many essential vitamins and nutrients. Combine these together and you have the perfect recipe for malnutrition. Far too many seniors suffer from malnutrition and may not even know it, making a meal replacement drink or shake the most important supplement for seniors.
Ensure Plus is perhaps the most popular meal replacement shake by one of the most trusted brands on the market. To offset the calorie deficiency you are probably suffering from, Ensure Plus has 350 calories. It also contains 13 grams of high-quality protein to fix any protein deficits you might have. It even contains 26 essential vitamins and minerals, including nearly all which were listed above. Coming in flavors such as butter pecan, strawberry, and chocolate fiber (with 12% of your daily fiber), it is also delicious and enjoyable to drink.
Although Ensure Plus is one of the most popular meal replacement shakes, there are many other available brands and varieties on the market. Some of the top brands include:
- Nestle: Boost Breeze Nutritional Drink
- Orgain: Organic Nutritional Shake
- Saturo: Meal Replacement Drink (Vegan)
- Kirkland Signature: Complete Nutritional Shake
- Carnation: Breakfast Essentials Ready-to-Drink
These are the top brands with the highest quality. Many more are available but be cautious when selecting other brands.
Meal replacement shakes are a great supplement because they can be taken at almost any time of the day. They’re also easy to swallow and you don’t have to worry about choking. You also don’t have to be as cautious taking meal replacement shakes because it’s essentially like adding an extra meal to your diet. A great choice and a the best supplement to add to your list to better your health quickly, safely, and easily.
Older adults and seniors are in need of vitamins that many others are not. For instance, seniors do not take up vitamin B12 from food as well as others. Seniors also have trouble absorbing vitamin D as efficiently. Calcium requirements also increase as people age. If you have a suspicion that you are not getting the vitamins and minerals you need, you are most likely in need of a multi-vitamin.
A lot is still being studied regarding vitamins and minerals. However, it is most likely the case that vitamins and minerals interact synergistically. If you take one vitamin alone, many times that vitamin is ineffective or less effective than when taken in food or taken in combination with other vitamins and minerals. By taking a multi-vitamin, you can ensure you are taking advantage of these synergistic effects.
In a JAMA study on men, it was found that “daily multivitamin supplementation modestly but significantly reduced the risk of total cancer.” Studies also indicate that low potassium levels increase risk of stroke and increase of hypertension. Furthermore, studies also indicate that taking a daily multi-vitamin also helps the immune system to respond more quickly (thought other studied have found the opposite).
However, vitamins can also be dangerous. If you smoke and take beta-carotene it increases your risk for lung cancer. Taking excess vitamin E for prolonged periods can increase the risk of heart attack or death. Niacin can be beneficial but can also damage the liver in large doses. In fact, if you increase the amount of drugs you take in general, you are putting more stress on your liver.
So, be cautious before buying in to all the benefits on supplements, they are not a cure-all. Also, be sure to always discuss supplementation with a physician before taking any supplements. In general though, supplementation with vitamins and minerals is largely regarded as safe and beneficial.
Best multi-vitamins for seniors:
- One A Day: Proactive 65+ Multivitamin
- Kirkland Signature: 50+ Mature Multivitamins & Minerals
- Nature Made: Men’s Multivitamin 50+
- Nature Made: Multivitamin For Her 50+
3. Vitamin D
It is well-known that vitamin D and calcium contribute the most to bone health. However, there is conflicting research about calcium supplementation. Unless you are chronically low in calcium and at high risk of osteoporosis, calcium supplementation is not usually recommended. On the other side of the coin, most people, young and old, are deficient in Vitamin D. Older adults are especially at risk of vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D is also important for prostate health and can reduce your chances of getting prostate cancer. It has also been show to help with cognitive decline, psoriasis, rickets, osteomalacia, and multiple sclerosis.
While the best way to get sunlight is to spend more time outdoors, if this is not practical for you vitamin D supplementation might be a good idea for you. Official recommendations are all over the place when it comes to how much vitamin D people actually need, however.
To learn more about Vitamin D please see the video below:
Best Vitamin D supplements for seniors:
- Nature Made: Vitamin D3, 25 mcg (1000 IU)
- Sundown: Vitamin D3, 1000 IU
- NatureWise: Vitamin D3, 1000 IU
- 365 Everyday Value: Vitamin D3 400 IU
As mentioned in the May Clinic video, you may need to take more vitamin D in the winter months. Also, the general recommendation is between 800-1000 IUs. However, vitamin D studies are currently on-going for the proper amount of vitamin D and it looks as if the recommendation will be much higher than the current recommendation. Also, ask your doctor to test your vitamin D levels to find out which amount of vitamin D is right for you.
If you have risk for kidney stones do not take vitamin D. Be sure to check with your doctor to see if vitamin D interacts with any medication you are taking as well. Otherwise, vitamin D supplementation is one of the safest of all supplements.
4. Vitamin B12
It is estimated that nearly 1 in 5 older adults is deficient in vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to problems such as depression, cognitive impairment, dementia, and peripheral neuropathy. Many vitamin B12 problems also cannot be reversed, so it is important to know whether or not you are getting enough vitamin B12, be sure to have your vitamin B12 levels checked to know for sure.
From Harvard Health:
“What harm can having too little of vitamin B12 do? Consider this: Over the course of two months, a 62-year-old man developed numbness and a “pins and needles” sensation in his hands, had trouble walking, experienced severe joint pain, began turning yellow, and became progressively short of breath. The cause was lack of vitamin B12 in his bloodstream, according to a case report from Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital published in The New England Journal of Medicine.”–Patrick J. Skerrett
Former Executive Editor, Harvard Health
One good thing about vitamin B12 supplementation is that it is almost impossible to overdose. Although it is recommended to consume about 2.4 mcg daily, taking a 500 mcg dose will most likely result in only a 10% uptake by the stomach. This means that it is okay to take 500 mcg daily pending no restrictions from your doctor.
Also, check with your doctor to make sure B12 is okay for you in pill form. Many seniors need to get weekly B12 shots due to lack of intrinsic factor in their bodies.
Don’t be taken in by all the promises of vitamin B12 either. There is a lot of information on the internet about how B12 can cure all that ails you. This just isn’t true. The only reason to take vitamin B12 is to prevent a deficiency and the harm that can come from a B12 deficiency.
Here are some of the leading brands for B12 supplements:
- Nature Made: Vitamin B12, 500 mcg
- Nature’s Bounty: Vitamin B-12, 1000 mcg
- Garden of Life: B12 Vitamin, 1000 mcg (organic)
- Solgar: Vitamin B12, 500 mcg
When people think of fiber they usually think of seniors. This is because of fiber’s well-known ability to help with constipation. However, fiber can also help you to lower your risk of certain diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, as well as help you to maintain a weight that is healthy for you.
While whole-grains and cereals can help you to get enough fiber, along fruits, vegetables, nuts, and beans, sometimes you still won’t get enough fiber in your diet. Lack of fiber can lead to weight gain, constipation, spikes in blood sugar and even fatigue. Fiber can also help you to maintain a healthy cholesterol level as well as help you to avoid irritable bowel syndrome and hemorrhoids.
There are two main types of fiber: insoluble fiber and soluble fiber. Insoluble fiber helps to increase the size of your stool and will help your stool to move through your body more effectively, thus insoluble fiber can help relieve constipation. Foods such as barley, couscous, brown rice, green beans, cabbage and broccoli can help you to increase insoluble fiber. Insoluble means it does not dissolve in water.
Soluble fiber, on the other hand, does dissolve in water. It can be found in foods such as oatmeal, lentils, apples, nuts, flax, cucumbers, celery and carrots. Soluble fibers help your body to slow down the digestion process which can make you feel full longer. This can help you to maintain a healthy weight.
Current recommendations for fiber intake are around 70 grams of fiber daily. Too much fiber can cause you to feel gassy and bloated. Also, if you go beyond the recommended limit, instead of helping with constipation you could end up becoming even more constipated.
Top fiber supplements:
- Metamucil Fiber: 4-in-1 Psyllium Fiber Supplement
- Contains both soluble and insoluble fiber
- Konsyl: Original Formula Daily Fiber
- Contain 70% soluble fiber / 30% insoluble fiber
- FiberCon: Fiber Therapy for Regularity
- Mainly soluble fiber
- BeneFiber: Daily Prebiotic Dietary Fiber
- Mainly soluble fiber
- Citrucel: Fiber Therapy for Constipation Relief
- Mainly insoluble fiber
A decline in night vision capabilities is a major concern for seniors, who often have to give up driving at night. While there are a number of conditions that would diminish night vision, ranging from cataracts to macular degeneration, there may be instances where Vitamin A can help. It is generally believed that Vitamin A helps maintain a healthy retina – the part of the eye that the light strikes. But taking a Vitamin A supplement is no substitute for regular eye examinations by an ophthalmologist.
Vitamin A is also considered helpful in maintaining healthy skin and combating adult acne.
Chances are, you get enough Vitamin A in your diet, especially if it includes carrots and leafy vegetables, but if your diet is less than ideal or if you suffer from health issues that inhibit absorption of nutrients, a Vitamin A supplement might be beneficial.
The Bronson Vitamin A supplement is non-GMO product, meaning that the plants from which the product was obtained were not genetically restructured to produce results that don’t occur naturally.
The recommended dosage is one capsule per day, but some users cut back to one capsule every other day with similar results.
Retinyl Palmitate Causes Cancer?
As with so many health topics, misinformation spreads faster on social media than correct information. So it may be with reports that retinyl palmitate, found in Vitamin A supplements, cosmetics and sunscreen, causes cancer.
A federal study in 2012 suggested that retinyl palmitate sped the growth of cancerous lesions on skin that had been exposed to high amounts of sunlight. Profound indications were lacking, and a number of potential contributing factors still need to be studied.
Sunscreen makers have been asked to voluntarily remove retinyl palmitate from their products until their safety can be verified. Reducing one’s exposure to direct sunlight remains the number one defense against skin cancer.
Link to Source
You might call Vitamin C the king of all vitamins. You might call it overrated.
One thing is certain, however. Your body needs it, and your body can’t produce Vitamin C on its own. Among its touted benefits are immune system support, lowering of heart attack risk and the preservation of cognitive skills among the elderly.
A persistent myth about Vitamin C is that it prevents colds. It doesn’t. It may, however, make colds go away quicker or mitigate the symptoms a bit if the person had already been taking it beforehand.
Even school children know Vitamin C is found in oranges, but it’s also found in a lot of fruits and vegetables – items that are very popular in nearly everyone’s diets. But since some of those fruits and vegetables are seasonal, people may have Vitamin C deficiency at certain times of the year.
The Amazon brand of Vitamin C does not have any clinical advantage over the competition, but this item represents a good value with quality control assurance that is verifiable through a certificate of analysis.
Pretty much, if you’re over 60, you have joint pain. Perhaps you’re active and don’t notice it so much, but the fact is, six or more decades of flexing, twisting, rolling and shifting takes it toll on joints.
Many products promise relief from pain and improvement in function for joints, but only a few deliver. Some have the right ingredients, but those ingredients often don’t make it into the bloodstream.
Osteo Bi-Flex Triple Strength Joint Supplement has a great track record, and is frequently recommended by professionals. With boswellia extract and type II collagen, it promises better joint functionality and less inflammation.
Magnesium is an added benefit to this product, even though magnesium isn’t a vital factor in joint health, but is important to overall health. For more on magnesium, read the next section.
One caveat, however. A few of the ingredients in Osteo Bi-Flex Triple Strength may cause issues with certain people. Always consult your doctor before committing to any supplement.
Magnesium is an abundant mineral in the body and it is a jack-of-all trades in body functions – listed as a co-factor in more than 300 enzyme systems, governing muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, energy and blood pressure regulation.
As it resides in the bones and soft tissue, monitoring of magnesium levels requires some degree of educated guess work. Fortunately, it’s a non-issue for healthy individuals with reasonable diets, so for those people, there is no reason to supplement magnesium.
For seniors, however, magnesium shortfalls are common, and supplements can help bring levels up to par, with noticeable improvement in overall well-being.
Commercially, magnesium is often added to products that treat other symptoms, like laxatives. Phillips Milk of Magnesia – the old faithful of laxatives – provides 500mg of elemental magnesium per dose.
But using a laxative as a source of magnesium is not good therapy, nor is using one of the other OTC products where magnesium is added simply as a bonus. If you don’t need help with the symptoms addressed by the products, don’t take the products just for the magnesium.
If, after checking with your physician it is determined that you need a boost in magnesium, the Nested Naturals brand of magnesium is a good choice. It’s safely manufactured and offers a money back guarantee if you’re not happy with the results.
If you’re familiar with the saying, “For want of a nail, the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe, the horse was lost. For want of a horse, the soldier was lost” etc., then you would understand the role of zinc in the body. It’s a trace element, residing in the body in tiny quantities, but its importance should not be underestimated.
Zinc plays a role in the immune system, and is the main ingredient in the few OTC cold remedies that actually shorten the duration of a cold. It’s also used in treatment the flu and respiratory infections, ear infections and illnesses caused by parasites, like malaria.
The list of conditions that zinc is used for goes on and on, and while clear evidence that zinc supplements help in all of those is lacking, a modest zinc supplement is certainly appropriate for seniors.
But be careful, though. Zinc is often paired with calcium, and if you’re already taking a calcium supplement or getting enough in your diet, you can go overboard with the calcium. That’s why the Nature’s Bounty brand is recommended. It’s zinc without anything extra.
There are numerous symptoms that show up in people – chief among them fatigue – that could be attributed to iron deficiency, but this isn’t a time for self-diagnosis. Always call your physician first, and then go on his or her recommendation.
That said, iron deficiency is indeed the cause of a lot of symptoms, including the aforementioned fatigue, weakness, dizziness and even difficulty concentrating.
But the real question is: What caused the iron deficiency? Iron supplements can address the iron issue, but they’re not going to help for long if the underlying cause of the iron shortfall is a serious disease.
Seniors should consider iron supplements because they are more likely to be ill in ways that deplete the body’s iron supply. Plus, some medications cause iron depletion.
The best way to replenish or maintain iron in the body is through diet, of course, with emphasis on things like lean beef, poultry, beans and potatoes. Iron is often added to supplements like multi-vitamins and is available as a stand-alone supplement.
Feosol Ferrous Sulfate is frequently recommended because of its high potency. It’s easily absorbed into the body and actually conditions the body for better absorption of iron from dietary sources.
Coenzyme Q10 is a space age-sounding term for a simple nutrient that the human body produces and is found in many foods. It is an antioxidant that protects cells from damage and plays a vital role in metabolism.
Young, healthy individuals need not worry about Coenzyme Q10. Their bodies create plenty of it naturally. But as the body ages, its production of Coenzyme Q10 decreases.
The jury is still out as to whether the benefits of Coenzyme Q10 supplements offer much help overall, but there is some encouraging evidence that they help lower blood pressure slightly and contribute to better heart health.
The Nature Made 200mg CoQ10 is as good a source as any for Coenzyme Q10, but its price runs a bit higher than many other supplements.
If you are on a statin medication, such as simvastatin, it is not recommended you take Coenzyme Q10. As always, check with your physician for the best advice.
A recent study by the Mayo Clinic had hoped to establish a link between enhanced levels of folic acid and improvement in cognitive function among dementia patients, but the study’s results were inconclusive.
But what is known as that dementia sufferers typically have low levels of folic acid in their bloodstream. Bringing those levels up to the norm was seen as an important first step in combatting dementia.
It is highly recommended to get a physician’s approval before taking this or any other supplement.
The Jarrow brand of methyl folate is gluten-free, dairy-free, suitable for vegans and its ingredients are readily bio-available (able to be absorbed into the blood stream easily).
Everyone has heard of B12 but B1 is just as important. Also, known as thiamine, vitamin B1 is considered by some to be the “antidote to aging.” Such high praise is perhaps a little too lofty, but it is important, to seniors more than any other age group.
It is suggested that Thiamine helps people maintain a positive mental attitude, stay calm during times of stress and have more energy. It is also believed to help prevent memory loss, including memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
In other applications, Thiamine is used to bolster the body’s immune system, diabetic pain, diminished appetite and heart disease.
Nutricost Vitamin B1 is non-GMO and gluten-free. It comes in three packaging options – one, two or three 120-count bottles – with the three-bottle option representing the greatest value.
Protein supplements are beneficial to more than just the gym rats on the bench press. Seniors can benefit from increased protein in their diets – either from food or a supplement – but all things in moderation, experts say.
A study conducted at McMaster University in Canada suggests that whey protein can help seniors rebuild muscle lost through inactivity. Even if rebuilding muscle is not needed, consuming whey protein can help prevent lean muscle loss during long periods of idleness.
“Not all proteins are created equal. Whey is one of the highest quality proteins and is ideal for older persons.”
–Stuart Phillips, professor of kinesiology, McMaster University
So for seniors, who all too often slip into reticent lifestyles, whether through illness or just the aging process, boosting their protein with a whey protein supplement can help them keep their strength, balance and general well-being. But don’t overdo. There is no benefit from massive increases in protein consumption, and older persons with kidney disease should not increase protein at all.
While powdered whey mixes are less expensive than ready-do-drink varieties, the latter would be a better choice for seniors because of their simplicity. One caveat: protein shakes are not meal replacements, nor are they meant to provide calories or nutrition. To drink a protein shake and skip a meal may actually end up with the user consuming less protein overall.