Best Supplements for 50 & Over

We all know that getting older comes with its physical challenges. Our bones get thinner, digestion and metabolism slow down, and our memory may be a little less sharp. Changes like these are a natural part of the aging process, but we’d prefer that they happen as slowly as possible. A healthy lifestyle that includes the right nutrition can make a big difference in how gracefully we age.

But getting the right nutrition also gets more challenging as we get older. A slower lifestyle, combined with changes in digestion, means we tend to eat less and our diet becomes less varied. At the same time, our ability to absorb nutrients starts to weaken with age. So it’s easy to come up short on key vitamins and minerals, just when your body needs them more than ever.

In fact, some of the most important vitamins and minerals for healthy aging are the same ones that tend to be lacking in older populations. That’s where supplements can help fill the gaps. Here are some of the most frequently recommended dietary supplements for your 50s and beyond.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is important for energy and healthy brain function. It also helps regulate your homocysteine levels, which is an important factor for your heart health. Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause fatigue, weakness, problems with balance, and cognitive issues.[1] It can also lead to high homocysteine levels, which are correlated with increased risk of heart disease and dementia.[2] For older adults, even a mild B12 deficiency is linked with an increased risk of cognitive decline.[3]

Unfortunately, vitamin B12 deficiency is common in older adults, as a result of age-related changes in the gut. About 10-30% of adults over 50 have decreased levels of stomach acid or other gut changes which inhibit their ability to absorb vitamin B12 from food.[4] For this reason, the Institute of Medicine recommends that adults over 50 boost their vitamin B12 intake with supplements or fortified foods.[3]

You can easily meet your daily minimum requirement for vitamin B12 by supplementing your diet with a multivitamin, such as our One Daily Multivitamin for Men 50+ or Women 50+. We also offer a higher potency Vegan B12 supplement for those who would prefer a stronger boost. Since B12 is not stored long-term in the body, there is little risk of taking too much.[3] However, it’s always a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider about the supplements you are taking, especially if you are taking any medications.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is known as the “sunshine vitamin” because our bodies produce it when our skin is exposed to sunlight. But as modern culture has increasingly moved indoors, research shows that vitamin D deficiency is becoming increasingly common. Older adults are at higher risk than most, not just because they spend less time outdoors, but because the skin’s ability to synthesize vitamin D from sunlight decreases with age.[5]

Vitamin D is best known for its bone health benefits. Your body needs vitamin D in order to absorb calcium in the gut and to support normal bone mineralization and muscle function. Without sufficient vitamin D, bones are more likely to become weak and brittle, and muscle weakness may increase as well, inhibiting your mobility and increasing the risk of fractures.[6][7]

But that’s not the only reason you need vitamin D. Recent research suggests that vitamin D has a broad range of health benefits that had been previously overlooked, with important roles to play in your immune health, mental health, and more. Lack of vitamin D has not only been linked with osteoporosis. Emerging research suggests that inadequate vitamin D status may also be associated with increased risk of colds and flus,[8] hypertension, cognitive decline, and depression,[9] especially for older adults.[10]

The official recommended daily minimum vitamin D intake is 600 IU for adults 50+ and 800 IU for adults 70+. But as the research on vitamin D evolves, many health experts feel that these recommendations are due for an update. The safe upper limit is 4000 IU per day, according to the Institute of Medicine, and recent research supports a daily dose between 1000-4000 IU, or higher for those who are deficient.[11][12]

There are only a few foods that contain vitamin D, including cold water fish like salmon, wild mushrooms, and fortified milk or orange juice, making it difficult to get enough vitamin D from diet alone.That’s why vitamin D supplements a practical choice. Our Whole Food Multivitamins for Men 50+ and Women 50+ include 1000 IU Vitamin D3. We also offer a Vegan Vitamin D3 supplement with 2500 IU, and Vitamin D3 Gummies with 1000 IU per gummy.

Calcium Complex

It’s no secret that bone loss increases with age. Our bones are constantly remodeling themselves throughout life, breaking down old bone and replacing it with new bone. Once we hit 50, though, the rate of old bone breakdown begins to outpace the rate of new bone-building. This change is particularly dramatic for women, because bone-protecting estrogen decreases sharply after menopause.

For older adults, it’s more important than ever to get enough calcium so that the body  can continue to build and maintain healthy bone. However, older adults have a harder time absorbing calcium from the gut,[13][14][15] and the common lack of vitamin D makes calcium absorption more difficult.[16] This means you need to increase your calcium intake to make up the difference. Along with calcium-rich foods like dairy products, leafy greens, and beans, a supplement can help ensure you get the calcium you need on a daily basis

But it’s not quite that simple. In order for your body to properly absorb and use calcium, it also needs a few other “helper” nutrients. Vitamin D, as we’ve already seen, is crucial for calcium absorption. Magnesium is also important, both for activating vitamin D[17] and for helping your body to metabolize calcium.[18] Research links higher magnesium intake with better bone density,[19] yet it’s estimated that up to 75% of Americans don’t get the recommended amount of magnesium,[20] and older adults are thought to be at higher risk of deficiency.[21]

Another important “helper” nutrient for calcium is vitamin K2. Vitamin K2 has the job of directing the calcium that you absorb into your bones and away from your arteries and soft tissues. Taking calcium without vitamin K2 may increase the risk of calcium deposition in blood vessels and kidneys, where they may cause damage.[22] Vitamin K2 is rare in the Western diet, since it is found mostly in fermented foods, so taking a supplement may help to protect your heart health.

Because calcium has these complex partnerships with other nutrients, we decided to combine them into one supplement. Our Bone Strength supplement combines calcium with magnesium, vitamin D3, vitamin K2, and a handful of other helper nutrients that work together to metabolize calcium and support healthy bones. If you are confident that you get enough calcium in your diet, you may still want to take a Vitamin K2 + D3 supplement to help make sure your body is properly metabolizing that calcium.

The Bottom Line

As you age, your nutritional needs change. Taking a multivitamin designed for older adults, such as our One Daily Multivitamins for men 50+ or women 50+, can help you meet most of your daily nutritional needs with more ease. However, a multivitamin won’t cover your bases for calcium and magnesium. These bulky minerals take up a lot of space in a supplement capsule, so the amounts included in most multivitamins tend to be lower. But if you combine a daily multivitamin with our Bone Strength supplement, along with a healthy diet, your nutritional needs should be well covered as you enter your golden years.

References

[1] “Vitamin B12 deficiency can be sneaky, harmful.” Harvard Health Publishing, Jan 2013.

[2]High Homocysteine.” Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center.

[3]Vitamin B12 Fact Sheet for Health Professionals.” National Institutes of Health.

[4] Raman, Ryan. “How Your Nutritional Needs Change as You Age.” Healthline, Sep 2017.

[5] Chalcraft JR, Cardinal LM, Wechsler PJ, Hollis BW, Gerow KG, Alexander BM, et al. Vitamin D synthesis following a single bout of sun exposure in older and younger men and women. Nutrients 2020; 12, 2237; doi:10.3390/nu12082237. [PubMed abstract]

[6] Vitamin D Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. National Institutes of Health. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/

[7] Boucher, Barbara J. “The problems of vitamin d insufficiency in older people.” Aging and disease vol. 3,4 (2012): 313-29.

[8] University of Queen Mary London. "Vitamin D protects against colds and flu, finds major global study." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 February 2017.

[9] Meehan, Meghan, and Sue Penckofer. “The Role of Vitamin D in the Aging Adult.” Journal of aging and gerontology vol. 2,2 (2014): 60-71. doi:10.12974/2309-6128.2014.02.02.1

[10] Cesar de Oliveira, PhD, Vasant Hirani, PhD, Jane P Biddulph, PhD, Associations Between Vitamin D Levels and Depressive Symptoms in Later Life: Evidence From the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, Volume 73, Issue 10, October 2018, Pages 1377–1382, https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/glx130

[11] Adda Bjarnadottir, MS, RDN (Ice). “How Much Vitamin D Should You Take for Optimal Health?” Healthline, June 2017.

[12]Calcium and Vitamin D: Important at Every Age.NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases ~ National Resource Center.

[13] Veldurthy, V., Wei, R., Oz, L. et al. Vitamin D, calcium homeostasis and aging. Bone Res 4, 16041 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/boneres.2016.41

[14] Armbrecht HJ, Zenser TV, Bruns ME, Davis BB. Effect of age on intestinal calcium absorption and adaptation to dietary calcium. Am J Physiol. 1979 Jun;236(6):E769-74. doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.1979.236.6.E769. PMID: 443430.

[15] Ensrud KE, Duong T, Cauley JA, Heaney RP, Wolf RL, Harris E, Cummings SR. Low fractional calcium absorption increases the risk for hip fracture in women with low calcium intake. Study of Osteoporotic Fractures Research Group. Ann Intern Med. 2000 Mar 7;132(5):345-53. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-132-5-200003070-00003. PMID: 10691584.

[16] J.R. Bullamore, R. Wilkinson, J.C. Gallagher, B.E.C. Nordin, D.H. Marshall. “Effect of Age on Calcium Absorption.” The Lancet, VOLUME 296, ISSUE 7672, P535-537, SEP 1970.

[17] Uwitonze AM, Razzaque MS. Role of Magnesium in Vitamin D Activation and Function. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2018 Mar 1;118(3):181-189. doi: 10.7556/jaoa.2018.037. PMID: 29480918.

[18] Paunier L. Effect of magnesium on phosphorus and calcium metabolism. Monatsschr Kinderheilkd. 1992 Sep;140(9 Suppl 1):S17-20. PMID: 1331782.

[19] Orchard TS, Larson JC, Alghothani N, Bout-Tabaku S, Cauley JA, Chen Z, LaCroix AZ, Wactawski-Wende J, Jackson RD. Magnesium intake, bone mineral density, and fractures: results from the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Apr;99(4):926-33. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.113.067488. Epub 2014 Feb 5. PMID: 24500155; PMCID: PMC3953885.

[20] Guerrera MP, Volpe SL, Mao JJ. Therapeutic uses of magnesium. Am Fam Physician. 2009 Jul 15;80(2):157-62. PMID: 19621856.

[21] Hayes, Kim. “Are You Getting Enough Magnesium?” AARP, Feb 2018.

[22] Maresz, Katarzyna. “Proper Calcium Use: Vitamin K2 as a Promoter of Bone and Cardiovascular Health.” Integrative medicine (Encinitas, Calif.) vol. 14,1 (2015): 34-9.