Do Seniors Need Supplements?
Article provided by Nancy Gloede, RN, BSN
In general, a multiple vitamin and mineral supplement is good for the health of seniors. Generic vitamins are fine — more expensive does not mean better. When buying a generic supplement, check to see if the package has the United Pharmacy Seal or UPS.
In addition to a multiple vitamin and mineral supplement, it’s important for seniors to take extra calcium – 1,200 mg a day is recommended. Dairy products and yogurt are good sources of calcium from food. One extra tablet of 600 mg calcium plus vitamin D (needed for Calcium absorption) will generally put you at the 1,200 mg a day level, but check your diet to be sure. The body can only absorb 600 mg of calcium at one time, so if you don’t eat a lot of dairy products and get your calcium primarily from a tablet, you need to take two 600 mg tablets at separate times during the day — one at breakfast and one at dinner.
Vitamin D is the latest vitamin being looked at to prevent fractures. It may even decrease depression. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means it is stored in fatty tissue and can build up in the body and potentially cause health problems. A blood test can be done to check for true vitamin D deficiency. Sunlight is the main source of vitamin D. For most, taking a supplement of 800 units of vitamin D a day may be adequate. Vitamin D is found in most over-the-counter calcium supplements.
Vitamin B12 is a vitamin we check when looking at memory loss and other health issues. As people age, B12 taken orally may not be well absorbed by the stomach. Some people may need a B12 supplement, either with over-the-counter tablets or monthly B12 injections if their deficiency is more severe. A blood test taken will identify if a person has a B12 deficiency.
Along with vitamin D, the other fat-soluble vitamins stored in fatty tissue are A, E and K. Note: it was once believed that vitamin E was beneficial in higher doses to prevent memory loss. This is no longer recommended.
While supplements can provide extra assurance, they can’t replace eating a healthful diet that includes a variety of nutritious foods. One last reminder; drink an adequate amount of water throughout the day.
Author: Nancy Gloede, RN, BSN
Last Review Date: Dec. 22, 2009