Should I Take Vitamins for Seniors?

Steven Mott by Steven Mott | Licensed since 2012

This article was updated on: 09/15/2018

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You might see ads for vitamins for seniors. Most of us know that good nutrition and a balanced diet are important for good health. We also may hear a lot of talk praising various vitamins for seniors for a myriad of benefits they might provide —restoring energy, improving memory, promoting good health.

How many people take vitamins? The Office of Dietary Supplements, a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), reports that most adults in the United States take one or more dietary supplements either every day or periodically. Popular vitamins for seniors and others include vitamins D, E, and B12, and minerals such as calcium and iron.

What are vitamins for seniors?

A Harvard Medical School newsletter explains that although vitamins for seniors mainly resemble normal multivitamins, there are some differences. Vitamins for seniors often include higher dosages of vitamins D and B12. Senior vitamin and mineral supplements sometimes don’t include iron, because many older adults do not need extra amounts and high levels may be harmful. According to Harvard Medical School, if you have a healthy diet, you probably consume sufficient vitamins.

There may be plenty of vitamins for seniors on the market today, but according to the U.S. government publication 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, “Nutritional needs should be met primarily from foods. Individuals should aim to meet their nutrient needs through healthy eating patterns that include nutrient-dense foods … [which] contain essential vitamins and minerals and also dietary fiber and other naturally occurring substances that may have positive health effects.”

Do you need vitamins for seniors?

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), older people might not absorb vitamins as well as younger people do. However, there may be dangers in taking high doses of vitamin and mineral supplements. While there may be some benefits – even possible protection against diseases – these benefits aren’t proven, the NIH reports.

Instead of taking vitamins for seniors, the U.S. Department of Agriculture encourages choosing a variety of nutritious foods from all five food groups published in the agency’s Food Guide.  The 2015 -2020 Dietary Guidelines recommend older adults pay special attention to their intake of calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B-12, potassium, and fiber.

Consult your doctor about vitamins for seniors

Vitamins for seniors, and mineral supplements, can sometimes interfere with prescription medications or make them less effective, according to the NIH. For example, Vitamin K can interfere with blood thinners such as warfarin. Vitamins A and C might make certain chemotherapy treatments less effective. Always discuss vitamin and mineral supplements with your doctor before you begin taking them.

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