Dietary Supplements for Seniors
And Younger Folks That Want to be Healthy Seniors Some Day
Introduction Supplements to Avoid
Prescription Drugs, and the Supplements they Deplete
The Vitamins Important Minerals Nutraceuticals
Selecting a Multivitamin-Multi-Mineral Product
Nutritional SupplementsA large and rapidly growing majority of seniors routinely take at least one vitamin, mineral, or nutraceutical on a daily basis. Nutraceuticals (A term coined by combining the words nutrient and pharmaceutical) are nutrients which are apart from vitamins and minerals such as herbals, herbal formulas, coQ10, enzymes, etc. These pages are for those of us who sense that our food supply, or our food choices, are less than ideal, and are willing to consider if nutritional supplements should play a role in our efforts to stay healthy.
More of us should be taking nutritional supplements, and most who are taking the basic once-a-day multivitamin might benefit by learning more about the industry in general. These pages hope to present that opportunity, with important links and information.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), "Women; the elderly; people with more education, more income, healthier diets and lifestyles, and lower body weight; and people in the western United States use multivitamins and mineral most often. Smokers and members of certain ethnic and racial groups (such as African American, Hispanics, and Native Americans) are less likely to take a multivitamin and mineral product."
There are many good reasons to fortify your health with vitamins, minerals, and nutraceuticals. Now is good time to review what your regiment is doing for you, and consider ways that it might be improved.
Before jumping in, a few bits of important information:
Safeguards Consumers HaveIn 1994, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act became law. This act provided guideline for manufacturers which standardized labeling. This article from the Nation Institutes of Health (NIH) explains much of what this act covered. This site will discuss how important it is to read and understand what is in the supplements we consume. If you want to become a more informed shopper and understand the Supplement Fact label on the back of any nutritional supplement, this article will help.
Vitacost.comIn many instances here I refer to products branded under the Vitacost label, or products manufactured by other companies and marketed by Vitacost. Vitacost is the largest Internet marketer of nutritional supplements. The company offers approximately 45,000 health-related products shipping from various warehouses across the nation. This is a company I have purchased from since it was a start up founded by a group of doctors all interested in nutrition. The company went public some years ago, and was purchased by Kroger, the grocery chain, about two years ago. Since discovering their fabulous multivitamin products, I have been a constant customer. Their customer service, product warranties, and speedy delivery is second only to Amazon.
In dealing with Vitacost, be aware that they are very promotional-minded. They frequently have discount offers in general and/or on specific products. I sometimes catch items that I use offered on a buy one get one half off sale. When I do, I stock up and save.
I have no financial interest or affiliation with Vitacost.
Worlds Healthiest FoodsOn a number of vitamins, minerals, and nutraceuticals I have linked over to the Worlds Healthiest Foods website for expanded information. This site is just loaded with information on diet and supplements, and it is a wonderful resource. The site is operated by the George Mateljan Foundation. The George Mateljan Foundation is a not-for-profit foundation with no commercial interests or advertising.
Supplements You Should AvoidThere are plenty of bad actors in the loosely regulated nutritional world, but the most annoying and costly of these come from two sources IMHO. Late night, early morning nutritional supplement infomercials would be number one, and number two would be the many multiple level marketing MLM) schemes. A third might be all the spam mail you get in your mail box; don't even read it.
Never buy a supplement that is featured in an infomercial. An infomercial is a television program that promotes a product in an informative and supposedly objective way. Invariably you are going to be required to pay a huge price for whatever the focus of the scam is. This is the dietary supplement world at its worst. An example from a decade ago is Coral Calcium from Robert Barefoot which was rebuked by Quackwatch here. The infomercial no longer airs except on his website, but a loyal customer base continues to pay double or triple the price for coral calcium complex compared to Vitacost and other more reputable manufacturers.
Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) Programs
This is the one where your sister-in-law calls, and informs you that she has gone into business for herself selling the most wonderful dietary supplements. Purchasing these products usually has to be done on faith, as it is too confusing to sort through and understand. This too is a scam of the first order, but unfortunately, your sister-in-law doesn't know it - yet. Take plenty of time to think about this one before you say no. Here is a Quack Watch article "The Miracle of Multilevel Marketing."
Drugs, and Nutrients Depleted by ThemThe best and surely the most cost effective way to insure that you are well covered on the essential vitamins and minerals is selecting a good multivitamin multimineral basic product. Before making this selection, however, seniors need to take into account the prescription drugs being taken. The question here is about interaction. Are there foods and supplements that should be avoided with your medicines? Does your medicine tend to drain certain vitamins, minerals, and nutraceuticals from your body? For seniors, this can impact your decisions about the multivitamin and other suppliments that may be appropriate.
Here is a list of common drugs with the vitamins, minerals, and nutraceuticals that can be affected:
This is just a cherry-picked list extracted from the new book "Fortify Your Life" by Tieraona Low Dog, MD. If drugs you take aren't covered, I strongly recommend her book that covers about every type of drug, and provides advice on reading those product labels, considerable discussion of all eccential vitamins, minerals, and important nutraceuticals, and helps design a supplement plan that is tailored for the individual.
The VitaminsVitamins are not the energy producers in our bodies. That job is for carb, proteins, and fats. But vitamins are essential for making the body and its immune system function as it should. Vitamins are the nutrients your body needs to fight off diseases. Following below are the thirteen vitamins essential to your health. They strengthen bones, heal wounds, help obtain energy from food, and on and on.
Vitamin A B1 Thiamine B2 Riboflavin
B3 Niacin B5 Pantothenic Acid B6 Pyridoxine
B7 Biotin B9 Folate B12 Cobalamin
Vitamin C Vitamin D Vitamin E Vitamin K
Vitamin A The term "vitamin A" makes it sound like there is one particular nutrient called "vitamin A," but that is not true. Vitamin A is a broad group of related nutrients. Each of these nutrients provides us with health benefits, but these benefits may be quite different and they may be provided in different ways. The World's Healthiest Foods website offers a summary chart showing basic relationships between the forms of vitamin A. Learn more about vitamin A from the World's Healthiest Foods.
B1 Thiamine Thiamine is an energy producer in your body as it assists the metabolism of all the grains, sugars, and booze you consume. It guards against some of those diabetes-related diseases especially in the cardiovascular system, kidneys, and eyes. Thiamine is also a helper nutrient for the brain and nervous system - dealing with stress and aiding memory retention as we age. Read more about thiamine (B1) here at WBFoods.
B2 Riboflavin Riboflavin is like the other B vitamins in that it helps produce energy by breaking down proteins and fats, and converts B6 and B9 into their active forms in the body. It also plays an important role in the metabolism of iron. The expansion of all this is presented by WBFoods.
B3 Niacin Niacin is a major player when it comes to converting carbs, proteins, and fats into fuel. It also protects your DNA from damage. Niacin is useful for managing cholesterol for those who shy away from statin drugs. For a more complete rundown on niacin, visit WBFoods.
B5 Pantothenic Acid Pantothenic acid is one of least likely vitamin that you will become deficient in, but it is critical in a variety of ways. It gets involved with energy, memory, learning, attention, melatonin, hormones and probably more. I'll let WBFoods take it from there.
B6 Pyridoxine Pyridoxine, like other B vitamins plays an important role in fuel and energy. This vitamin is especially important for vegetarians as it converts omega-3 from plant sources to the long-chain omega-3 needed for brain, vision, and cardiovascular health. It is involved with the production of GABA, serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, all of which are associated with mood. More from World's Best Foods.
B7 Biotin Biotin is good for your hair and nails. Here is the link to WBFoods.
B9 Folate For seniors, folate is vital for maintaining healthy brain funtion, protecting us from certain cancers, and protecting against a rise in homocysteine. High homocysteine is a marker for increased risk of heart disease and stroke. The folate in your multivitamin is called folic acid. This is the synthetic version of folate put in all multivitamins. If folic acid fails to keep the homocysteine numbers in check, bioavailable folate may be a good idea. More about folate here.
B12 Cobalamin Cobalamin or vitamin B12 is an especially important member of the B family as it is critical for maintaining healthy nerve cells, and it helps in the production of DNA and RNA, the body's genetic material. It works closely with B9 and folate in making red blood cells and in helping iron work better in the body. B12 and folate also play a vital role in strengthening the immune function and stabilizing mood. For more, visit World's Healthiest Foods for complete information on cobalamin.
Vitamin C Vitamin C is often the first vitamin we consume and for good reason. There are so many good reasons to take it.
Vitamin D Vitamin D is found in modest amounts in some food, but for the most part is obtained from exposing your skin to the sun. Since your dermatologist probably frowns at this practice nowadays, most people need to resort to supplements to be sure of not getting short of this important vitamin. Vitamin D has important roles in the body - helping to maintain the health of bones and teeth; support the health of the immune system, brain, and nervous system; regulate insulin levels and aid diabetes management; support lung function and cardiovascular health; and influence those genes involved in cancer development. This is not a vitamin you want to be short of, and many seniors are. Most seniors should supplement with 2000 IUs daily, but if you have dark complexion, are obese, or don't get out of the house much, you may need more.
The vitamin D council is about the best resource around for learning more about vitamin D.
If you aren't getting at least 2000 IU of vitamin D in your current supplement, you may need to add one of these products: Vitamin D3 sofgel 2000 IU or Vitamin D3 sofgel 5000 IU.
Vitamin E This vitamin functions largely as an antioxidant protecting cells from damage, and reducing the risk of all sorts of diseases including cancers, heart problems, and dementia. It plays a crucial role in support of the immune system, and is particularly helpful to the optical. Further, its role in monitoring blood pressure, supporting muscle contraction, and even reproduction functions make this a very important vitamin for sure. That said, it is not one to overdose on. A multivitamin providing 150 IU to 200 IU should be about right. This is one of those vitamins that can be a bit risky for folks if you are just taking a one a day sort of multivitamin. WebMD provides a good page for learning more about vitamin E here.
Vitamin K Vitamin K is critically important for helping blood clot properly, and it also plays a role in bone health. Visit World's Healthiest Foods for expanded information.
Calcium Chromium Iodine Iron
Magnesium Potassium Selenium Zinc
Calcium Calcium is a critical mineral for good health - actually for life! In your youth you were told to drink your milk in order to have strong bones. You may not drink milk now, but keeping the bones strong is obviously the first order of business for seniors. This mineral also helps blood clot, helps nerves transmit messages, and makes it easy for muscles to contract. Your body loses calcium every day and the body has no means to replace it. You have to eat it or swallow a few pills to get it. If you don't, the body is smart and it will rob some of your calcium in your bones. It's good that the body knows where to get the calcium it must have, but it is not so good for aging bones. Read more about calcium here.
If you are among those who don't get enough calcium in your diet, it makes sense to take a supplement because most multivitamin don't supply much, if any, calcium. Check the label of your multivitamin. Calcium is a mineral that works best if it is taken in balance with vitamin D and with magnesium. So a good product like Vitacost Calcium, Magnesium, and Vitamin D3 should be considered.
Chromium Although you only need a tiny bit of chromium in your diet, seniors and anyone prone to having sugar problems need to make sure it is there to handle its role associated with insulin regulating. A deficiency here can lead to insulin resistance. Any good multivitamin will take care of this mineral. Read more on chromium here.
Iodine Iodine is a mineral necessary in the body for thyroid production. Any good multivitamin will take care of this mineral, so no need to dwell on it. If you have thyroid issues and want to read more visit here.
Iron The need for a lot of iron in the diet declines as we age. This is not to say that seniors can't be iron deficient, but usually, most of what we need is obtained from the diet. Seniors only need 8mg daily, so taking an iron supplement can easily result in toxicity. If your multivitamin contain iron, you probably need to switch to one that doesn't. More on iron from WBFoods.
Magnesium This is one to worry about. Government surveys show that half the population fails to get the RDA for magnesium from their diet. This problem is known to be much worse with seniors, many of whom take drugs that deplete stores of magnesium. Low levels of magnesium are linked to diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease migraines, depression, osteoporosis, and asthma. It's functions in the body are critical including bone health, energy production, maintaining nerve system balance, controlling inflammation, and enhancing control of blood sugar. For expanded information on magnesium visit here.
Since most multivitamin lack magnesium or only contain a tiny bit, supplementing with a magnesium product is a good idea for most seniors. The question becomes which kind of magnesium - there are several. The pros and cons on the different types is here. I previously mentioned a popular choice, Vitacost Calcium, Magnesium, and Vitamin D3. If you get plenty of calcium and vitamin D from diet or other supplements, Magnesium Citrate, or a blended product using for different type of magnesium, Vitacost Ultra, or one of the newest and most absorbable types, Magtein, which is discussed here may be preferred. Magtein is a premium price product, but for my money it is worth the difference for seniors. It's my personal choice.
Potassium Potassium is a mineral that must be obtained from diet, not supplements. Visit WHFoods to get additional information, especially relating to the foods that should be a part of your diet in order to avoid potassium deficiency.
Selenium You should be getting your Selenium from your multivitamin. You don't need much, but it is essential. See WHFoods for expanded information.
Zinc Zinc is a mineral that plays many roles in health as it interacts with the expression of the DNA and is a key player in the immune system. Take zinc with your vitamin C when cold symptoms appear. Often seniors are deficient in zinc. For expanded info on zinc, go here.
Some Popular Nutraceuticals
Nutraceuticals is a broad umbrella term that is used to describe any product derived from food sources with extra health benefits in addition to the basic nutritional value found in foods. They can be considered non-specific biological therapies used to promote general well-being, control symptoms and prevent malignant processes.
The term “nutraceutical” combines two words – “nutrient” (a nourishing food component) and “pharmaceutical” (a medical drug). In our context, a nutraceutical is a healthy natural product that is neither vitamin nor mineral - not medicine.
Acetyl L-Carnitine Alpha Lipoic Acid Coenzyme Q10
Lutein and Zeaxanthin Turmeric Probiotics
Omega-3 Fatty Acids Systemic Enzymes BCAA
Acetyl L-Carnitine This nutraceutical is an amino acid that can give you a big boost in energy, both physical and mental. Here are expanded reports on Acetyl L-Carnitine provided by WebMD and David Perlmutter, MD, Neurologist, and author of Grain Brain. If this ingredient is not in your multivitamin, you can get a good energy bang for your buck using the Vitacost product.
Alpha Lipoic Acid This is one of most powerful antioxidant around. It is both fat and water soluble meaning that it is effective throughout the body - most effective for the brain and nervous system, and for controlling blood sugar. Learn more about ALA from LiveStrong.com and U of Maryland Medical Center.
This antioxidant is included in the Vitacost multivitamins, but if it is not in yours, this nutraceutical is one to consider for healthy aging especially a healthy brain. The Vitacost Alpha Lipoic Acid is a good choice.
Coenzyme Q10 CoQ10 or ubiquinone, is a fat-soluble antioxidant that the body produces or you can eat - mostly found in fish and organ meats. This nutraceutical is famous for protecting the heart and cardiovascular system, but in essence, it is very helpful in all of the cells in the body, and it considered the most life-extending antioxidant. While it is made in the body when you are young, it starts slacking off in mid-life, and for seniors, supplementing is a good idea because the supply is about gone. For a broader look at this important nutrient, visit here.
I strongly recommend multivitamins containing a dose of coQ10, but if yours doesn't have it, here are options to consider: Vitacost coQ10 200mg Vitacost coQ10 400mg
Lutein & Zeaxanthin These are important antioxidants that protect your eyes from macular degeneration and cataracts. Read more on these from the American Optometric Association. A dose of both of these is in every Vitacost multivitamin, but many other multivitamins do not have - if they do have them, the dose is likely very small in ineffective. For seniors concerned about vision issues, the Vitacost Lutein and Zeaxanthin product offers a whopping 20mg dose.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids It's vital for seniors to mantain a balance of the omega 3 and the omega 6 fatty acids (fats). The reason is simple, omega 6s are pro-inflammatory fats, and the omega 3s are anti-inflammatory. This is discussed here. Please take a minute to read this article completely to have an understanding of why you may or may not need to take fish oil, krill oil or cod liver oil. It depends entirely on your dietary habits. Having a balance in the omega fats will play a major role in winning the battle with inflammation in your body.
Now omega 3 fatty acids are not a part of most multivitamin formulas, so if you are still eating processed foods, foods fried in vegetable oils, and beef finished on grain, you should probably be taking an omega 3 supplement. Here are three different options to consider and measure against: Antartic Krill Oil, Vitacost Mega EFA, and Vitacost fish oil. More on fish oil from WebMD.
Probiotics Probiotics are essential for better health and a stronger immune system, for healing digestive issues, and neurological disorders. A lot, well actually most, of your immune system is located in your gut. Many people with health issues such as thyroid imbalances, chronic fatigue, joint pain, psoriasis, autism, and many other conditions do not realize that these illnesses can originate in the gut. To restore your digestive health is all about balancing out the good and bad bacteria in your digestive system. If you are going to be healthy you should consider consuming probiotics rich foods and supplements daily.
Probiotics should be taken daily when you are required to take antibiotics. This will reduce the damage that these drugs can do to your immune system.
While a few of the better multivitamin formulas include probiotics, most do not. Here are two options for probiotics: Probiotics 10-20, Probiotics 15-35
More from Harvard.
Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory that has been proved effective in a wide variety of situation. Dr. Josh Axe offers a comprehensive article on turmeric here. If you are taking a multivitamin that does not contain a dose of turmeric, this is one that should be considered as an add on nutrient. My favorite here is Turmeric Phytosome Curcumin.
Systemic Enzymes Wobenzym N and Flavenzym are systemic enzymes that help to build and maintain overall health. They can be used to deal with a specific issues such as a strain or tennis elbow. Often they are used to promote prevention and overall general body support by eliminating impurities, foreign proteins and micro-organanisms from the blood stream and tissues. Many people use systemic enzymes instead of more dangerous non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) like Celebrex, Advil or Aleve. Read more on systemic enzymes.
Systemic enzymes must be taken on an empty stomach at least 45 minutes before eating.
Systemic enzymes have been marketed for decades and they remain one of the best anti-aging tools we have. Wobenzym N is the original German product which has been well researched and studied. Flavenzym is a Vitacost product which appears to be an exact knock-off. Both can be obtained at discounted prices from Vitacost.com.
Branched-Chain Amino Acid (BCAA)
If you are an everyday workout sort of senior, a BCAA drink is a good way to stay in the gym or on the court longer. They increase muscle strength and endurance. See article from Life Extension on these.
A recommended item from Vitacost is the ARO Black Series Amino Plus.
Selecting a Multivitamin-Mineral ProductIn selecting a multivitamin product, I have established a four group situation. Options and ideas will be provided for each of the groups.
Group 1- has minimal interest in dietary supplements, but will agree to a multivitamin calling for just one capsule daily. Prefers just one capsule a day, but having read this far, may take two tops. This is a risky group for seniors.
Group 2 - doesn't want to go overboard with too many capsules to consume, but realizes that age and prescription drugs consumed may make more nutritional supplements helpful. Tolerance for taking up to 5 to 7 capsules daily.
Group 3 - looking for an affordable combination of essential vitamins, minerals and nutraceuticals to hang on to and enjoy healthy living. Willing to consume several more capsules daily. This group is where I would hope most seniors end up since our need for nutritrition gets more complicated with each passing decade.
This group also includes much more focused multivitamins. If you have been diagnosed with heart disease, diabetics, macular degeneration, or if your chief concern is maintaining your mental abilities, you may find your multivitamin in this section. These are products that the Vitacost founding physicians designed for specific purposes and they are very unique in the industry.
For Group 1 individuals, I have developed a comparison page on two multivitamin. The first of these is the Vitacost Once Daily multivitamin, and the second is probably the most popular multivitamin for seniors - Centrum Silver. The Centrum Silver is typical of most one-a-day type vitamins, so it is used here as an example. Many ingredients are represented, but in instances, the trace amounts are not really very helpful. For example, most higher quality multivitamins do not include calcium, magnesium, and potassium because the body's need for these is so great that it can't be dented with a small portion of one capsule. A good calcium and magnesium supplement will usually call for three capsules daily. Seniors that try to maintain their health with nothing more than a one-a-day will not do very well.
Even though the Vitacost Once Daily costs nearly four times as much for the daily dose, at just $0.30, it is a far better value. Its 2000 IU of D3 coupled with the therapeutic dose of a significant number of nutraceuticals make this a single capsule that you might be able to scrape by with as long as your food consumption is near perfect, and you avoid the many pitfalls of the average American diet. This is a great one-a-day for teens and young adults.
Vitacost Once Daily multivitamin.
For Group 2 individuals
Here, we're looking for a multivitamin and mineral product offering a full range of coverage with just a couple of capsules or tablets a day. This extra capsule allows expansion in various direction, usually resulting in a formula with more nutraceuticals providing more anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory protection. Examples are the Vitacost Basic and the Vitacost Energy multivitamin products. These products are highly recommended for healthy adults. The products do, however, leave some gaps, particularly in the minerals and nutraceuticals that seniors may want to consider. By strategically adding products to meet your particular situation, these products can serve as a base for a highly focused supplement program. My personal choice for a base multivitamin is Vitacost Energy. These are multivitamin that provide a very solid base for expanding in different direction depending on individual needs and health objectives. I think of these as being great multivitamin choices for healthy people from their mid-thirties to their mid-fifties.
Vitacost Basic or Vitacost Energy
For Group 3 Individuals
As a few gray hairs begin to appear, you may realize that you might benefit from a more compreshive multi-vitamin multimineral product. The older you get, the trickier supplementing your diet becomes, and the more critical it becomes. Here are a list of items that you should consider: