Your body goes through several changes as you age, many of which can alter your nutritional needs and increase your risk of deficiencies.
For example, your stomach produces less acid, which can reduce your body’s absorption of micro nutrients such as vitamins B6 and B12, iron, and calcium. For this reason, adults over 50 may need to consume more of these nutrients.
Many older adults also experience reductions in bone mass, which is why calcium and vitamin D requirements are higher for those over 70 years of age.
Adults over 65 may also need to consume large amounts of protein to help prevent sarcopenia or age-related muscle loss.
Additionally, postmenopausal women need less iron because they lose less blood once they stop having regular periods.
Because many people experience a decreased appetite as they age, meeting their nutritional needs can become an even bigger challenge. This is another reason why some turn to supplements.
Decreased nutrient absorption, bone loss, muscle loss, menopause, and reduced appetite can change your nutritional needs as you age.
Do you need supplements?
Supplements are not necessary for everyone. In fact, many people can meet their nutritional needs simply by eating a balanced and generally nutritious diet.
However, some people can benefit from taking certain supplements.
For example, supplements may be recommended for those who have health problems that affect nutrient absorption or who take medications that increase the risk of nutritional deficiencies.
People with certain dietary restrictions may also need to take a supplement to meet their nutrient needs.
For example, vegans and vegetarians may find it more difficult to get enough iron, vitamin B12, or omega-3 fatty acids because these nutrients are more abundant and easier to absorb in foods of animal origin.
Vegans can also experience calcium, iodine, and zinc deficiencies. Calcium is of particular interest to older adults who may be at risk for osteoporosis.
People who are lactose intolerant should also consider calcium intake. Increasing age is associated with a higher likelihood of lactose intolerance, and the inability to consume dairy products could contribute to a calcium deficiency.
Also, vitamin D is not commonly found in food sources, which means that people who do not get regular sun exposure may require supplements.
Studies show that vitamin D deficiency is common among older adults in assisted living facilities and nursing homes.
Still, it’s best to work with a healthcare professional to determine if you need supplements or if you can meet your nutritional needs with diet alone.