Common Nutritional Deficiencies in Older Adults
As we age, getting adequate nutrition can be a challenge. Our bodies may have more trouble absorbing nutrients, making us more susceptible to vitamin deficiencies. Although common, nutritional deficiencies in elderly folks are easy to avoid with proper attention to diet and a little help from supplements.
5 Vitamin & Mineral Deficiencies In Seniors
Eating a healthy diet and exercising is extremely important as we get older, but sometimes we need an extra boost from nutritional supplements. Below are the most common nutrient deficiencies in seniors, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics1:
Potassium is an essential mineral that is involved in the function of every cell in the human body. Being one of the most abundant minerals in the body, it is also an important electrolyte that assists with muscle function2. Many relate potassium with bananas, but other foods that contain the mineral include leafy green vegetables, oranges, sunflower seeds, and potatoes.
2. Vitamin B-12
Vitamin B-12 is a water-soluble vitamin that plays an important role in energy metabolism. Since significant amounts of Vitamin B-12 are not found in vegetables, it is an important supplement for vegetarians and vegans. The National Institutes of Health recommends that people over the age of 50 use a supplement to avoid a deficiency3. Seniors who are vegans or vegetarians and feel depressed may be experiencing symptoms of B12 deficiency.
Fiber is important for our digestive health and regular bowel movements. It can also help you feel fuller for longer, improve cholesterol and blood sugar levels, and may prevent diabetes, heart disease, and bowel cancer4. Fiber also helps feed your gut bacteria which supports digestive health and can affect your immune health and mood. Foods like whole-grains, vegetables, and fruits are some of the best sources of fiber.
Calcium is an essential mineral that is critical for bone maintenance. Unfortunately, seniors are especially vulnerable to calcium deficiency for many reasons including calorie intake5, intestinal absorption, and less exposure to sunlight. Foods that include calcium are almonds, leafy greens, cheese, dairy products, salmon, and whey protein.
5. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that works with calcium by enhancing absorption to support bone health6. Many seniors living in areas with long winters are deficient in the “sunshine vitamin.” Vitamin D can be found in sardines, fish liver oils, and eggs, but older individuals may also benefit from supplementation.
Avoiding Nutrient Deficiencies In Seniors & Older Adults
While there are a number of common vitamin and mineral deficiencies in elderly men and women, taking the right supplements or foods can help supply the nutrients they’re lacking. By knowing what nutritional deficiencies you are experiencing, you can take the first step to supplying your body with the nutrients it needs.
1. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
2. How does the nervous system work?, October 28, 2009; Last Update: August 19, 2016; Next update: 2022
3. What is vitamin B12 and what does it do?
4. High-Fiber Diet Linked to Lower Colon Cancer Risk, Nov. 10, 2011
5. Why seniors are more vulnerable to calcium and vitamin D deficiency, SEPTEMBER 17, 2018