Important nutrient information for people over 50


Special to the Recorder

Why should those over the age of 50 closely monitor their intake of nutrients?

People in this age group are likely candidates for deficiency in numerous nutrients for several key reasons. They are more likely to suffer from serious and/or chronic diseases that can impact nutrient levels in the body. Their digestive systems become less efficient at absorbing nutrients. They use medications and prescription drugs more than other age groups and these substances often deplete nutrients. And their aging bodies produce fewer health protecting compounds.

Here are just a few of the vitamins and other nutrients that are especially important for people age 50 and over. This list, however, should not be viewed as exhaustive in any way. Your age, gender and current state of health make major impacts on nutrient levels in your body. Since your health care provider is familiar with your age and health background, you should discuss with him or her about supplementation and any dietary changes you should make to keep your mind and body in top condition.

B vitamins: This family of vitamins assists with blood, neurological and cardiovascular function. While they are found in plant sources, B vitamins are usually more abundant in animal sources. In fact, vitamin B12 is only found naturally in meat and dairy products. Niacin (vitamin B3) is important for blood circulation and appetite regulation. Studies show it may also help boost good HDL cholesterol. Another important consideration is that niacin may reduce brain damage after a stroke by increasing blood vessels. Research indicates that up to 25 percent of older adults fail to consume enough niacin from dietary sources to meet recommended daily requirements. Good supplies of niacin are found in meat, poultry, beans, nuts, asparagus and leafy, green vegetables.

Riboflavin (vitamin B2) assists in the distribution of iron and plays an important role in metabolism. Like niacin, about a quarter of seniors do not get enough riboflavin. Several studies show this vitamin can help protect vision by reducing the risk of age- related cataracts. Pyridoxine (vitamin B6) helps maintain blood sugar levels and prevent anemia. It is also important for mental health because it helps develop mood-controlling neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. Over 50 percent of people aged 60+ are believed to be deficient in this vitamin. Cobalamin (vitamin B12) is important for neurological function, but it is often poorly absorbed in older people. Depression, memory loss, dementia and balance problems may also emerge because of low B12 levels. A Swedish study on B12 and folate (another B vitamin) showed subjects with low levels of these two nutrients had twice the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Vitamin C: A powerful antioxidant, vitamin C delivers protection against many serious diseases that are linked to oxidative damage, such as cancer, heart disease and stroke – conditions that more often occur in older adults. In addition, vitamin C may offer protection from cataracts. In a review of vitamin C studies, researchers noted adults aged 60 to 96 had lower plasma levels of vitamin C compared to those under the age of 60. The vitamin can be found in oranges, red peppers, potatoes, bananas, carrots and watermelon.

Vitamin D: Over the last couple of years, the profile of vitamin D has sharply increased in North America. News that populations in Canada and the northern United States may be deeply deficient in this versatile nutrient has been widely published. As well as being important for bone health, vitamin D in sufficient dosages may protect against many serious diseases such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and diabetes. Researchers at the University of California discovered that consuming 1,000 international units (UI) of vitamin D daily slashes the risk of colon cancer up to 50 percent. Unfortunately, vitamin D is not widely found in our food chain and older adults are less able to synthesize vitamin D from sun exposure. Ask your health care provider if you should supplement with this vitamin.

Calcium: Since older adults are more likely to develop osteoporosis and experience decreases in bone density, they need to get sufficient amounts of the bone supporting mineral calcium. It can be found in dairy products, tofu, salmon and sardines.

Magnesium: Like calcium, the mineral magnesium helps maintain good musculoskeletal health but provides a wide number of other health benefits. Older adults may have trouble absorbing sufficient amounts of magnesium. Adjust your diet to include plenty of magnesium rich foods like halibut, almonds, bananas, spinach and soybeans.

Dr. Erika Hamer is a chiropractic neurologist and owner of Ponte Vedra Wellness Center, with offices in Ponte Vedra Beach and Nocatee Town Center. Dr. Hamer also runs Ponte Vedra Training Company, specializing in doctor supervised training programs customized according to individual goals and physical limitations.