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Age Related Vitamin Supplements

As we age, questions arise about what vitamin supplements we should be getting to make the most of our health and how we should be getting them - on our plates or in a handy supplement - begin to loom large.
Calcium supplements
Osteoporosis, the bone-thinning disease that most commonly affects post-menopausal women, results from bones that have lost calcium and thickness.

Osteoporosis has reached epidemic proportions and primary reasons for this is that we get too little calcium in our diets, for one, and we don't get enough weight-bearing exercise.

"Over the age of 50, women have an escalated rate of bone loss," says Marianne Smith Edge, RD, president of the American Dietetic Association. "The recommended daily value of calcium supplements jumps to 1,200 mg daily for women and men over 50. Obviously, first you should focus on calcium sources within your diet, but calcium supplementation may be necessary to meet your increased needs and prevent bone loss."

Sources of calcium
You can get your daily dose of calcium:-
  • from milk and milk products like yogurt;
  • fish with bones that are eaten, like canned salmon or sardines;
  • broccoli;
  • juices and cereals that are fortified with calcium.
Vitamin D Requirements
Vitamin D is calcium's indispensable partner. It's essential for proper absorption of the calcium you get in your diet. But as we get older, our ability to synthesize vitamin D in sunlight through our skin diminishes, says Irwin Rosenberg, MD, professor and dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. "Therefore, our dependence on dietary sources of Vitamin D goes up. We either have to get it through our food, especially in the winter, or we have to get it through supplements."

Adults between 50 and 70 should be getting 400 IU (international units) of vitamin D per day ; over 70, the recommendation goes up to 600 IU daily. That's not always easy to get through dietary sources. "As we age, D is one of those vitamins I think we're unlikely to meet our needs for through diet alone, especially during the winter months," says Rosenberg.

Sources of Vitamin D
  • fortified milk and cereals,
  • liver,
  • fish.
B-12 Requirements
Another vitamin that we tend to get less of as we age is B-12. Adults of all ages should get 2.4 micrograms of B-12 daily ; pregnant and breast-feeding women need a little more.

"Research has shown that as we grow older, we tend to make less stomach acid, and stomach acid is required for the efficient absorption of vitamin B-12," says Rosenberg. That's because B-12 needs to be separated from the protein it's bound to in your food before you can start making use of it." The Institute of Medicine recommends that adults over 50 get most of their vitamin B-12 from supplements or fortified food because of impaired B-12 absorption.

This vitamin is central to the maintenance of the memory and cognitive functions, as well as other neurologic abnormalities.

Sources of Vitamin B-12
  • Naturally found in animal foods and proteins including meat, eggs, milk, fish, and poultry,
  • as well as in fortified cereals.
Folate not just for pregnancy
Almost every pregnant woman knows that a daily dose of folate is essential for preventing neural tube defects in the developing fetus. More and more, research is indicating that folate may be just as important as we age as it is during pregnancy.

"Folic acid helps to metabolize a substance called homocysteine, which has been clearly associated with the risk of heart disease and stroke," says Rosenberg. "If you don't have enough folate, you're likely to have high homocysteine levels. In recent years, there's been increasing evidence that these levels are also associated with an increased risk of cognitive decline and dementia."

The current recommended daily allowance of folate for adults is 400 micrograms per day, raised to 600 mcg if you're pregnant.

Sources of Folic Acid
  • Many fortified grain products like pasta, bread, breakfast cereals, and rice.
  • Dark green leafy vegetables like spinach.
  • Citrus juices and fruits.
Vitamin E and Vitamin C Requirements
Vitamin E and vitamin C are both powerful anti-oxidants vitamins. Studies have suggested that they may help protect against age related diseases as varied as cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's, and cataracts. But other studies have found that increased E and C intake does nothing to prevent these diseases. "We still don't have really strong evidence from randomized, controlled trials," says Demark.

For vitamin C the RDA is 60 mg for adults and for Vitamin E the RDA is 15 mg for adults.

Sources of Vitamin C
  • citrus fruits, tomatoes;
  • vegetables like peppers, broccoli, and asparagus.
Sources of Vitamin E
  • nuts, seeds, and oils.

You can boost your daily dosage of both with fortified cereals.

Vitamin A Requirements
Vitamin A has a number of health-promoting functions particularly important as we get older. It plays an important role in vision, bone growth, reproduction, cell division, and cell differentiation and helps to regulate the immune system.

It is found primarily in animal products like liver and eggs. The recommended daily intake of vitamin A is 3,000 IU for men and 2,330 for women.

Supplementing Wisely
Of course, you can get too much of a good thing. "There is no substance, including water, that is safe at any dose," says Rosenberg. Vitamin D, for example, in too-large doses can lead to side effects like vomiting and diarrhea, and long-term consequences like kidney damage.

Too much folate can mask the damage being done by a vitamin B-12 deficiency. Researchers are now investigating evidence that an excess intake of vitamin A may contribute to osteoporosis, although the evidence remains inconclusive. Some vitamins, like B-12, don't have much potential for toxicity in high doses, but it's generally safest to avoid supplementing with more than 100% of the recommended daily intake of any vitamin.

"To get the vitamins and other nutrients we need, food should always be first, and in a balanced diet that includes fruits and vegetables, whole-grain bread, and cereals - especially those that are enriched," says Smith Edge. "Any decision to supplement ideally should be based on professional input from a health professional."

04/25/04







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