Vitamins are an interesting topic in the field of nutrition. Some people feel strongly about taking them, whereas others are wary of their effectiveness. I feel that the need for vitamins should be determined on an individual level. It’s important to speak to your doctor and a registered dietitian before taking any vitamins in order to determine which ones may be beneficial for you. This is especially relevant to older adults, considering people over the age of 50 may need more of certain vitamins and minerals compared to younger adults. For this age group, your doctor or registered dietitian may recommend taking a multivitamin or individual vitamins, such as those discussed below.
Calcium works collaboratively with vitamin D in the body to help keep bones strong at all stages of life. As people age, they gradually lose bone density, which can lead to bone fractures in older adults. Older adults, specifically women, are at an increased risk of developing osteoporosis, a condition involving a significant loss of bone density, making them weak and brittle.
As previously mentioned, vitamin D plays an important role in the creation and maintenance of bones. This vitamin also increases the intestinal absorption of calcium. Many people in the United States consume less than the recommended amounts of vitamin D. Older adults who struggle with mobility and/or spend the majority of their time indoors are at an increased risk for vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin B6 plays a role in protein metabolism, immune function, and the formation of red blood cells. Inadequate vitamin B6 status is typically associated with low concentrations of other B-complex vitamins in the body, such as vitamin B12 and folic acid. Certain groups of individuals are at risk of vitamin B6 inadequacy, including those with impaired kidney function and those with alcohol dependence. It has been hypothesized that poor vitamin B6 status is associated with the cognitive decline that some older adults experience, but more research needs to be done to determine the validity of this potential relationship.
Vitamin B12 helps to keep red blood cells and nerves healthy. Older adults need the same amount of Vitamin B12 as other adults, but they may have difficulty absorbing the vitamin from food sources. Additionally, vegetarians and vegans are at an increased risk of developing a vitamin B12 deficiency because it’s only naturally found in animal products.