Once the celebrations for reaching the half-century mark have faded and you’ve got a good look at yourself in the mirror, you might, just maybe, be thinking, “Gosh, it’s time to take better care of myself!”
They know that the risk of many chronic health problems tends to increase with age. And after 50, if you are realistic, you are playing on the back of life. Of course not to fool you. On the contrary, the years after 50 are going to be some of your best, especially if, as you said, you start taking better care of yourself by eating healthier diets, exercising, and reducing stress. There is one more proactive step you might consider: start taking supplements to make sure your body is getting the nutrients you may be missing now that you are a little older.
We asked doctors and nutritionists for their suggestions on the best nutritional supplements for people over 50. Grab a glass of water and read on. And if you’re specifically looking for supplements that can help you lose weight, check out these that dietitians recommend.
While most of us get all of the vitamins and minerals we need from our diet, dieters occasionally recommend taking a multivitamin to fill in micronutrient gaps. But not every multivitamin is a good multivitamin. First, if you are over 50, the multi you are taking should be iron-free unless your doctor tells you otherwise. Iron can mask symptoms of anemia and make certain drugs less effective.
A quick way to find the best multivitamin supplement is to make sure it contains B12 and folic acid. “It should be the bioactive, natural forms of B12 (look for methylcobalamin or adenosylcobalamin on the package) and the natural form of folic acid (L-methylfolate),” says Sheldon Zablow, MD, a psychiatrist and author of Your Vitamins Are Obsolete. “Most dietary supplements contain man-made forms that are difficult to metabolize and absorb. These two are crucial as all other vitamins depend on them for their function.”
Vitamin B12 and folic acid are particularly important for a healthy brain. “These nutrients are needed to produce neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers that enable communication between brain cells,” says Dr. Zablow. “Low B12 and folic acid deficiencies can lead to depression, anxiety, fatigue, poor concentration, and poor sleep. Taking optimal amounts also reduces chronic inflammation, which is nine of the top 10 causes of disease and unhealthy aging.”
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Collagen is a protein that can improve the elasticity of your skin and help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. “As we age, our collagen decreases and should be replenished,” says Anna Reisdorf, RD, a registered dietitian nutritionist for Wellness Edge. “A collagen peptide supplement is easy to add to your routine; You can just add it to any drink. I also recommend vitamin D for people over 50 because you produce less of it as you get older. It is important for immunity and bone health. Take at least 1,000 IU daily. “For more information, see Safe Signs of Vitamin D Deficiency, Experts Say.
This plant substance found in red wine and red grapes has antioxidant properties. “Much of aging is due to free radical damage,” says Reisdorf. “A hefty boost in antioxidants from resveratrol and green tea extract can help.” Resveratrol has also been shown to lower blood pressure and provide other heart benefits. A placebo-controlled human study found that participants who took a resveratrol-fortified grape extract capsule daily for six months had a 2.6 percent reduction in LDL (bad) cholesterol compared to no reduction in blood fat in the placebo group.
Largely due to the decline in dairy consumption over the past few decades, calcium is considered a nutrient of concern in the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. “After 50, women need more calcium – 1,200 milligrams a day versus 1,000, and men may not be getting enough calcium to meet their needs,” says Elizabeth Ward, MS, RDN, a nutritionist after 50 and author of The Menopause Diet Plan, A Natural Guide to Managing Hormones, Health, and Happiness. Calcium from a dietary supplement is best absorbed in doses of 500 milligrams or less at a time, Ward says. Calcium carbonate is best absorbed when ingested with food, while calcium citrate can be taken with or without food.
Research has suggested a link between low levels of the omega-3 fatty acids, most of which are found in fish oil, and an increased risk of age-related cognitive decline such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), omega-3 fats help keep the heart beating properly and reduce the risk of irregular rhythms that can lead to sudden death from a heart attack or stroke.
“Omega-3 fats are also useful for lowering elevated triglycerides in the blood, slowing plaque build-up in the arteries, and potentially lowering blood pressure, which tends to rise with age,” says Ward. “Fish and seafood are the best food sources for DHA and EPA, but most people don’t eat the recommended 8 ounces of fish weekly to prevent heart disease and will likely benefit from omega-3 supplements containing DHA and EPA.”
The FDA recommends no more than 2,000 milligrams of DHA and EPA daily from supplements and possibly less if you are on certain medications.
Most informed vitamin consumers will swallow a comprehensive multivitamin, vitamin D and vitamin C. The next supplement on the top 4 nutritionists list Marie Ruggles, RD, CDEFor people over 50, the mineral is zinc. “This is an essential nutrient for preventive health and overall immune function,” says the author of Optimize Your Immune System: Create Health and Resilience with a Kitchen Pharmacy. “The only good source of zinc is oysters, which most people don’t eat regularly, so taking supplements is important.”
This nutrient has antioxidant properties and is believed to be helpful in conditions such as asthma and arthritis, and some (but not all) clinical evidence suggests it may prevent prostate cancer. While you can take a selenium supplement, whole foods can provide it too. Ruggles suggests consuming just one Brazil nut a day will provide the selenium you need.
Choline is an essential nutrient that supports the liver and muscles and is part of the cell membranes that protect the inner workings of cells. It is also the raw material for making a neurotransmitter that enables the cells of the nervous system to communicate with each other.
Some (but not all) studies suggest that choline is linked to better memory performance as we age. Animal foods such as eggs, meat, poultry, and seafood provide the most choline. “Men need 550 milligrams of choline daily while women need 425 milligrams of choline daily, but research by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) shows that women consume an average of just 278 milligrams,” says Ward. “Research suggests that postmenopausal women have greater choline needs than they did during their premenopausal years.”
Ward says multivitamins are low in choline, if any, so she recommends buying choline bitartrate supplements to get the most choline for your buck.