As we age, our bodies go through various different changes, which is why it’s important that we explore ways to help our bodies work optimally and remain as healthy as possible. In this article, we will explore which vitamin and mineral supplements you will want to focus your attention to when turning 65+.
Did you know that your body is made up of cells? In fact, each type of cell has its own life span, which means that they are in constant need of replacement. When you start to age, your cells are unable to be replaced quickly, if at all in some cases. This is because some cells are unable to divide or have a short division lifespan. As a result of the body’s cells not being able to repair or renew quite so efficiently, various organs and parts of the body cannot function optimally, leading to the various signs and symptoms of ageing (What happens when you age 2021).
As an example, when you age, your bones can lose strength, joints become stiffer and less flexible and you can also lose muscle mass, too. But our saving grace is that we do have options to caveat some of the ill effects of ageing, such as ensuring you get enough calcium and vitamin D to maintain strong bones.
Let’s dive into more detail on what vitamins and minerals are supportive for those aged 65 and over:
The Best Minerals for Older Adults: Calcium
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body and makes up approximately 1.5-2% of overall body weight. According to the Institute of Medicine’s guidelines (Dietary Reference Intake for Calcium and Vitamin D, 2010), women aged 51 and above are recommended to have an intake of 1200 mg of calcium per day, whilst men are recommended to obtain 1000 mg per day. Men, however, should increase this to a daily intake of 1200 mg when turning 71. Therefore, it is important to ensure that you meet your calcium requirements. You can do this by obtaining plenty of calcium-rich foods from your diet as shown below.
Calcium rich foods include:
- Dairy produce such as milk and cheese
- Green leafy vegetables such as kale and collard greens
- Fish where you’re able to eat the bones, for example sardines
- Fortified cereals
- Some soy milks and fortified plant-based milks
- Chia seeds
The Best Vitamins for Older Adults: Vitamin D
Vitamin D is also supportive when it comes to bone health, not to mention it is also key in supporting the health of our muscles and immune system. It is synthesised by your skin when you’re exposed to sunlight and for this reason, vitamin D is technically a hormone rather than a vitamin.
You can obtain marginal amounts of vitamin D in the diet from foods such as mushrooms that have been exposed to the sun, oily fish, and fortified cereals. However, it can be a struggle to reach your daily recommended intake through the diet alone. That’s why it is particularly important in the UK to take a vitamin D supplement, as we are often in such short supply of quality sunshine, particularly in the winter months. Government recommendations are to take 10mcg of vitamin D daily during October to April.
Taking vitamin K2 alongside your vitamin D supplement is also highly beneficial (K2 supports the absorptions of vitamin D). You can get Balance D3+K2 drops which have combined these key ingredients for your convenience.
The Best Vitamins for Older Adults: Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin and antioxidant, which has been studied for its role in immune health. As an antioxidant, this powerful vitamin can protect the body’s cells from free radical damage and oxidation, whilst also encouraging the production of white blood cells, which can help to protect the body against infection. There is some evidence that taking vitamin C (200mg daily) may help to reduce the severity and duration of the common cold, and there are also studies investigating vitamin C supplementation with slowing the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease (Harrison, 2013). Vitamin C also supports the synthesis of collagen which can help to maintain healthy cartilage, ligament, joints, and skin as well as being able to support blood vessels.
Intake of vitamin C is especially important in older adults’ because they are more prone to catching flu and infections, as well as being susceptible to diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Foods rich in vitamin C include:
- Bell peppers
- Hot chilli peppers
The Best Vitamins for Older Adults: B Vitamins (B12 & B9, Folate)
When you reach an older age it is particularly important to ensure that you are getting your daily required intake of B vitamins.
Vitamin B9 (also known as folate) and vitamin B12 are essential for brain health, forming healthy red blood cells as well as DNA synthesis. Studies show how deficiencies of these vitamins are linked with poor long-term health, particularly in older people (Reynolds, 2002).
Low levels of vitamin B12 in adults can manifest as pernicious anaemia, neuropathy (this is damage to the nerves often causing numbness or weakness), and cognitive impairment. Because some of these symptoms are so commonly seen in older age, B12 deficiency can often go unnoticed.
Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin. This means that your body cannot produce it naturally, so you must obtain it through foods.
For adults the daily recommended intake of B12 is 2.4 mcg. Older adults are particularly susceptible to B12 deficiency because it is absorbed from foods via our stomach acid (as you age, your stomach acid and enzymes can start to lower, which is why you are much more prone to not process B12 effectively). Therefore, your healthcare practitioner may advise that you regularly consume foods high in B12, as well as taking a supplement.
Foods that are rich in B12 include:
Because B12 is mainly found in animal sources of food, if you are vegan you may need to consider taking a B12 supplement as well as obtaining some of your requirements from vegan food sources such as nutritional yeast and fortified plant-based milks.
When it comes to folate (B9), the daily recommended intake for adults is 400 mcg.
Because folate is water-soluble (this means that the body doesn’t store it and excretes any excesses through urination), you must ensure you get your recommended intake each day.
Good sources of folate include:
- Dark green leafy vegetables including spinach, romaine lettuce, brussel sprouts, broccoli, asparagus)
- Sunflower seeds
- Beef liver
- Fortified foods
- Citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruits
Harrison, F. (2013). ‘A Critical Review of Vitamin C for the prevention of age-related cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s Disease’, J Alzheimers Dis. NCBI [Online]. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3727637/ [Accessed 29 August].
(2020). ‘What Happens When You Age’, Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care, NCBI [Online]. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK563107/ (Accessed 30 August 2021).
(2010). ‘Dietary Reference Intake for Calcium and Vitamin D’, Institute of Medicine of the National Academics. [Online]. Available at: https://www.nap.edu/resource/13050/Vitamin-D-and-Calcium-2010-Report-Brief.pdf (Accessed 30 August 2021).
Reynolds, EH. (2002). ‘Folic Acid, Ageing, Depression and Dementia’, BMJ, NCBI [Online]. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1123448/ (Accessed 30 August 2021).
Bucher, A. White. N (2016. ‘Vitamin C in the Prevention and Treatment of the Common Cold’, American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, NCBI [Online]. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6124957/ (Accessed 3 September 2021).