Vitamins and minerals stand as vital nutrients crucial for maintaining optimal bodily functions. The ongoing discourse revolves around the consideration of supplement intake, a decision primarily driven by individual preferences.
The significance of both vitamins and supplements becomes more pronounced as individuals age, particularly among seniors.
With this in mind, we offer you this in-depth analysis of supplements and their influence to help ensure seniors’ nutritional requirements are fulfilled.
Why consider supplementation?
Advancing age brings about challenges in the efficient digestion, absorption, and metabolism of nutrients. Additionally, certain medications can impede these processes. Supplements become particularly relevant for individuals whose diets lack adequate quantities of essential vitamins and minerals required for sustaining good health.
Nonetheless, seeking guidance from a medical professional is essential before incorporating supplementary vitamins and minerals alongside prescribed medications.
Attaining the recommended daily levels of vitamins and minerals necessitates consuming substantial amounts of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. Opting for nutritionally balanced choices as delineated in Seniors Nutrition, and preferably incorporating organic produce grown in mineral-rich soil, contributes to this pursuit.
Which Vitamins and Minerals Should You Consider Supplementing?
Certain individuals hold the perspective of incorporating supplements into their routine, even when maintaining a healthy diet. In light of this, what are the commonly favored vitamins, minerals, and other supplements?
A quality multivitamin/mineral blend offers a comprehensive array of essential vitamins and minerals necessary for promoting overall health. This option is also more cost-effective, as it streamlines your purchases into a single product.
Medical experts are in agreement that a deficiency of Vitamin D is prevalent among the general population in the UK, with the seniors being particularly susceptible. This susceptibility arises from the primary source of Vitamin D, which is exposure to sunlight on uncovered skin. However, Vitamin D assessments are not routinely conducted within the NHS.
Seniors face heightened vulnerability to Vitamin D deficiency due to potential lack of sun exposure, even during the summer months. This is especially true in care homes where a significant number of residents spend the majority of their time indoors.
Vitamin D plays a pivotal role in maintaining strong bones, teeth, and muscles. Its significance is amplified for individuals with Osteoporosis (refer to Good Old Bones). Furthermore, it contributes to brain health, blood pressure regulation, and the prevention of heart disease and diabetes.
Natural sources of Vitamin D include oily fish (such as salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, and tuna), red meat, and eggs. While certain cereals are fortified with Vitamin D, discussions surrounding fortification of bread and milk to ensure adequate Vitamin D intake for vulnerable individuals have yet to yield tangible outcomes.
A straightforward method to meet the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for Vitamin D is to utilize an oral Vitamin D spray, accessible at health food stores. The daily limit for Vitamin D intake stands at 100mcg (micrograms) or 4000 IU, a measurement commonly used by various sprays.
While many of us associate Vitamin C with its ability to prevent and alleviate colds, its benefits extend far beyond that scope. This vitamin operates as an antioxidant, combatting infections and diseases, while simultaneously promoting the health of the skin, blood vessels, bones, and cartilage. It serves as a guardian for cells, aids in wound healing, and fortifies the immune system.
Abundant in various fruits and vegetables, Vitamin C is notably present in tomatoes, strawberries, raspberries, other berries, and green leafy vegetables. Given that numerous seniors might not consume ample quantities of fresh produce, additional Vitamin C proves advantageous. Fresh fruit and vegetable juices offer an excellent source of Vitamin C.
The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for Vitamin C stands at 60mg per day for individuals under 64 years of age. However, this requirement increases for older individuals. One of the advantageous aspects of Vitamin C is its water solubility, which ensures that any surplus amounts are excreted from the body through urine.
Inadequate levels of Vitamin B12 and B6 have been linked to heightened risks of stroke and dementia. As the body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients diminishes with age, these vitamins assume a crucial role in preventing mental health disorders.
Due to the absence of routine testing for vitamin levels within the NHS, only a minority undergo such assessments. To address this, one approach is to consider a Vitamin B complex supplement and incorporate foods enriched with B vitamins into one’s diet, such as fortified cereals. Noteworthy sources of B vitamins encompass eggs, liver, kidney, nuts, sunflower seeds, and whole grains.
Calcium & Magnesium
Calcium stands as an essential component for promoting healthy bones and plays a pivotal role in blood clotting. It also functions as a natural relaxant and may offer protective effects against certain cancers. For individuals with osteoporosis or those at risk, calcium assumes particular significance as a supplement.
Sources of calcium encompass dairy products, broccoli, green leafy vegetables (excluding spinach), beans, soy, nuts, molasses, bread, and fruit. Operating in tandem with calcium, magnesium aids muscle relaxation, facilitates energy release from food, and contributes to the formation of new cells and proteins. While magnesium is present in most vegetables, organically cultivated vegetables are preferable due to their mineral-rich soil resulting from less intensive farming practices.
Low iron levels afflict many individuals, a condition detectable through blood testing. Insufficient iron leads to anemia, characterized by a deficiency of red blood cells, resulting in pronounced fatigue, breathlessness, heart palpitations, and swallowing difficulties. Iron is indispensable for the production of red blood cells.
Red meat, grains, legumes, nuts, green leafy vegetables, and dried fruits stand as commendable sources of iron. Optimal absorption occurs when these iron-rich foods are consumed alongside those high in Vitamin C. Physicians can prescribe iron supplements, or individuals can procure liquid iron tonics.
Omega-3s (Fish Oils and Plant-Based Alternatives)
Scientific studies have demonstrated that fatty acids like Omega-3s can significantly mitigate the risk of developing dementia in later life. These compounds are also attributed to fostering heart health, easing joint inflammation (as seen in arthritis), and enhancing mobility.
Guidelines stipulate that older individuals should incorporate a minimum of two servings of fish into their weekly diet, with one of these servings being of the oily variety, such as tuna, mackerel, salmon, sardines, and herring. To ensure ample intake for safeguarding health, fish oil supplements can be an option. For those abstaining from fish consumption, vegetarian alternatives like flaxseed (also known as linseed) can be considered.
The concept of maintaining “friendly bacteria” within the gut is familiar to most people, and this is particularly crucial for seniors, given the increased vulnerability of their digestive systems. A well-functioning gut or digestive system is directly intertwined with the immune system’s well-being.
From a medical perspective, probiotics are categorized as foods due to their presence in live yogurts. They also function as supplements that aid in the optimal performance of the digestive system. An analysis of research by Cochrane Review has affirmed the safety of probiotics and their ability to reduce the duration of acute infectious diarrhea while lessening the frequency of restroom visits.
Individuals dealing with recurrent digestive issues could potentially benefit from probiotics available in capsule form. These capsules contain a higher concentration of “friendly bacteria” compared to yogurts.
*Prior to beginning a new supplement, always consult your trusted healthcare professionals. Certain elements may not align with individual dietary requirements and could potentially lead to medical contraindications.