Expert Q&A

Vitamins: Supplement suggestions for people 50+

How do the body's vitamin requirements change as we age? I'm 55 years old. What supplements should I be taking?

People who are 50+ have an increased risk for nutrient deficiencies, and should ensure adequate intake of certain nutrients. As your body’s own natural antioxidant system becomes less effective, you need to increase your intake of antioxidant and potassium-rich fruits and vegetables. Remember that nutrients obtained from our diets are always preferable to supplements.

In addition to taking a multivitamin, you should take a calcium supplement that includes vitamin D. These nutrients are needed for bone health as well as energy metabolism and heart health. Ideally, your calcium supplement will contain 1200 milligrams (mg) calcium and 400 I.U. vitamin D. Your multivitamin should contain at least 100% of the RDA for vitamin C and  E, B12, B6 and folic acid, as well as for the minerals selenium and magnesium. There is some evidence that vitamin K may also be an important nutrient for your age group, so look for a multivitamin that offers at least 25 micrograms (mcg). The exception for this recommendation would be for those people who are taking Coumadin or any other blood thinning medication (vitamin K is contraindicated with those medications).

Vitamin A intakes in the elderly are generally below the current standard of 800-1000mg per day. Despite these low intakes, liver stores of vitamin A are well preserved with advancing age so supplementation is more detrimental in elderly persons than in younger persons because of a diminished ability to clear this vitamin from the body, leading to potential toxicity. In addition, multivitamins should contain little or no iron as it too can be stored and become toxic.

Michèle Turcotte, MS, RD/LDN
Contributing Expert

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