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Seniors and their multivitamin needs

Aging is about enjoying a carefree life. We are now living longer and old age is much more than just grey hair and doctor visits. While aging is inevitable, the damage associated with the lifelong wear and tear can certainly be slowed down. Some nutrients have demonstrated the potential of doing so. While there is a drop in the requirement of calories with age1 it is of prime importance to provide the body with all the vitamins and minerals. In fact, the need for some vitamins and minerals such as calcium, B vitamins, vitamin E, and iron and zinc increases with age.1,2

There is, implicitly, a greater need for all those nutrients that the body is not absorbing efficiently. The elderly, who are healthy and active, can obtain the necessary vitamins and minerals by eating a balanced and varied diet. Multivitamin supplements are not required in such individuals.2

However, some elderly individuals may be home-bound and suffering from some chronic medical condition. Nutrient absorption can be adversely impacted in those with digestive and liver disorders. Also, medications sometimes interfere with nutrient absorption. Such individuals may be at nutritional risk and may benefit from dietary supplementation.

Many of the elderly individuals may have difficulty meeting their nutrient needs due to a number of reasons like:

  • Failure to eat regular balanced meals
  • Medication interfering with nutrient absorption
  • Body's inability to make or use nutrients

Persons who are unwilling or unable to consume a healthful, varied diet that includes multiple daily servings of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy products and meats or meat alternatives should take a multivitamin-mineral supplement and include foods fortified with nutrients whenever possible.2

Though dietary supplements cannot replace a healthy diet, people who fall into any of the following groups should discuss supplements with their doctor:3

  • People over age 50
  • People at risk for low vitamin D status (older adults, people with dark skin, people exposed to insufficient sunlight)
  • Vegetarians who consume no animal foods at all (vegans)
  • People affected by medical conditions (malabsorption conditions, certain medications) that increase nutrient needs or limit ability to consume a balanced diet.

Whether one decides to take a supplement or not, it is still important to eat a wide variety of vegetables and fruits every day as part of daily diet. Vegetables and fruits contain vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals that help protect your health and fight disease. Choosing these is the easiest route to safeguard health in the older population.


References

1.Wahlqvist ML, Kouris-Blazos A, Savige G. Food-based dietary guidelines for older adults. In Keep fit for life. Meeting the nutritional needs of older persons. Boston, World health Organisation, 1998(annx 3): 81

2.Moore C. Should everyone over age 75 take a multivitamin? Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine March 2000; 67(3):155-6.

3.Supplement your diet wisely.pg 12.Nutrition after 50 Tips and Recipes. Healthy Living for Cancer Prevention. The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR). [cited on 13.12.10] Available from: http://www.aicr.org/site/DocServer/Nov2007_After_50_FINAL.pdf?docID=1571%20