Ten vitamins and minerals you need

Appetite not what it used to be? Well, you’re not alone. With increasing age, our calorie-burning capacities slow down, leading to smaller appetites. Yet at this age, our nutritional needs are greater.

Taking a supplement can top up any shortfalls for key vitamins and minerals in your diet. These are only a supplement to healthy eating, not a substitute.

What to look for:
Here’s what to look for in a supplement:

  • A multivitamin-mineral supplement designed for people over 50 is a wise idea, even for smart eaters.
  • Go for a generic brand, if you like, and be sure to check the expiration date.
  • When choosing a supplement, look for one with a wide range of vitamins and minerals.
  • Watch out for words like “mega” or “super” which can signify hefty dosages.

Caution with herbals
Don’t think of non-medicinal ingredients or herbs as being irrelevant. The amounts contained may be negligible or may indeed have a significant effect.Keep in mind that while herbal supplements may be natural, they can interact with prescription medations.

For example:
St. John’s Wort can decrease the effectiveness of immunosuppressant drugs. Both St. John’s Wort and ginkgo biloba can act as a blood thinner.

Next page: Key nutrients

Key nutrients
Here are a few key nutrients to look for on the label before you buy:

What it does:
 A multi won’t provide all the calcium you require. To meet your quotas, top up your food choices with separate calcium.
How much: Food and supplements should total 1,200 milligrams.

What it does:
 Provides protection against cardiovascular disease and colon cancer.
How much: At least 0.4 milligrams of folate but no more than 1 milligram.

Vitamin B6:
What it does:
 Provides protection against cardiovascular disease. However, excess has been linked to sensory nerve damage.
How much: Many formulations contain less than 10 milligrams. Don’t exceed 200 milligrams.

Vitamin B12:
What it does:
 Necessary for healthy red blood cells, nerve function and protection against cardiovascular disease.
How much: At least 25 micrograms (mcg).

Vitamin D:
What it does:
 Necessary for calcium absorption and healthy bones, this vitamin may also play a role in decreasing the risk of some autoimmune diseases.
How much: 400 to 800 IU in a multivitamin. This may also be combined in a calcium supplement.

Dose caution
Vitamin A:
What it does:
 Healthy immune system function, the maintenance of strong teeth and bones and night vision are just a few of the perks of this vitamin.

Excess can be stored in the liver and boost the risk for hip fractures.
How much: 3,000 IU.

What it does:
 Also known as a pro-vitamin A, as it is turned into this vitamin in the body, excess is not linked to hip fractures. 

This compound acts as an antioxidant as well. But large doses may boost the risk for lung cancer in susceptible individuals.
How much: 15,000 IU maximum.

Vitamin E:
What it does:
 This vitamin, an antioxidant, protects against the damage caused by oxidation, a process linked to the development of a range of diseases, including heart disease and certain cancers.

For those on cholesterol-lowering drugs such as statins, separate vitamin E supplements may not be advised.

Large doses may provide only one type of vitamin E, which concerns some scientists.
How much: About 22 IU per day minimum with about 1500 IU as the upper dose.

What it does:
 This mineral is best known for its role in the production of hemoglobin, the part of the red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body.

Men and post-menopausal women should avoid iron overload as it may boost the risk for cardiovascular disease. Supplements can also cause constipation.

How much: 0 to 10 milligrams.

What it does:
This mineral plays an important role in the proper functioning of the immune system. It also has a key role in cell division, cell growth and wound healing.

Too little or too much can both impair immune function.
How much: 15 milligrams.