As we age, our bodies change, and along with this, our nutritional needs also change. To help
balance and address the physiological changes of aging, men and women over the age of 50 need to
ensure that they are getting increased quantities of certain vitamin, minerals, and other
As always, having a balanced, healthy, and varied diet is the best way to get nutrients.
However, it is sometimes difficult to ensure that certain nutritional needs are always being met
through diet alone. Because of this, it is often a good idea for people over 50 to take a
mutivitamin or specific vitamin and mineral supplements to make sure certain increased
nutritional requirements are being met.
We’ve outlined a list of specific vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, which are especially
critical for people over 50, why they are important, and how much of these nutrients you should
be getting in a supplement.
Vitamins and Minerals for People Over 50
Why Do You Need Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a powerful and essential nutrient that serves many functions and provides numerous
health benefits. As we get older, getting enough of this vitamin is critical for helping to
maintain the health and strength of bones and teeth. Additionally, getting adequate amounts of
vitamin D is also linked to a decreased risk of developing certain cancers, including colon,
esophogeal, and breast cancer.
Although getting adequate exposure to sunlight is the primary method of obtaining vitamin D, it
is difficult for many people to get outside enough to produce the vitamin this way. Also, the
damaging effects of sun exposure could potentially outweigh the benefits of getting vitamin D.
Many people also have a hard time getting enough vitamin D through diet alone, so taking a
vitamin D supplement is often the best solution.
How Much Vitamin D Should a Supplement Contain?
The RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) for vitamin D (established by the Food and Nutrition
Board) is 600 IU (15 micrograms) a day for men and women between 50-70 years old. They have also
defined the upper tolerable limit at 4000 IU (100 micrograms) a day. This is the level at which
most people can take a nutrient without experiencing any adverse reactions.
However, the Vitamin D Council recommends that adults take 5000 IU (125 micrograms) a day. This
is because some studies have shown that some people need to take higher levels of vitamin D in
order to have enough of the vitamin in their blood.
For most people over 50, a daily intake between 1000-2000 IU (25-50 micrograms) a day should be
sufficient for their nutritional needs. Also, there is little risk of having any negative
effects from taking this amount each day. Look for a multivitamin or vitamin D supplement which
provides this amount of vitamin D each day. Many popular multivitamins formulated for people
over 50 contain 1000 IU.
Why Do You Need Calcium?
As you probably already know, calcium is the most critical nutrient required for maintaining
strong bones and teeth, and for preventing osteoporosis and bone injuries. As we age, our bones
tend to become more brittle and weak, so getting sufficient amounts of calcium each day is very
important for people over 50, particularly women. Having health bones can have a major impact on
maintaining a good quality of life well into our senior years.
How Much Calcium Should a Supplement Contain?
The RDA for calcium for adults between the ages of 50 and 70 is 1000 milligrams a day for men,
and 1200 milligrams a day for women. Some studies have indicated that increasing your intake of
calcium does not prevent bone fractures, while other studies have shown that it does. The
current recommended amounts are considered safe and are generally considered adequate amounts to
promote bone health, so these are the amounts men and women should be getting through diet and
Many multivitamin supplements contain 300-500 milligrams of calcium. However, most people get a
large amount of calcium through their diet, particularly if they consume dairy products
regularly. However, if you do not, or cannot, eat dairy, then you might need to take an
additional calcium supplement to ensure that you are getting 1000 milligrams a day if you are a
man, or 1200 milligrams a day if you are a woman.
Note: Increasing your intake of calcium increases your requirement for vitamin D and magnesium,
as both of these nutrients are needed for the body to be able to properly absorb calcium. Also,
large amounts of calcium cannot be absorbed all at once, so it is better to take a smaller
amount 2 or 3 times a day.
Why Do You Need Magnesium?
Magnesium works together with both calcium and vitamin D to help promote bone health and prevent
bone fractures, so increasing your intake of calcium and vitamin D when you’re over 50 should
correspond with an increased intake of magnesium, as well. Also, as we age, our bodies have a
harder time absorbing magnesium from food sources, thereby increasing the likelihood of older
adults suffering from a magnesium deficiency.
Not only is magnesium important for maintaining healthy bones, but also has other benefits for
adults over the age of 50, including lowering your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and
suffering a stroke, as well as helping to lower blood pressure.
How Much Magnesium Should a Supplement Contain?
The RDA for magnesium for adults over 50 is 420 milligrams a day for men, and 320 milligrams a
day for women. A recent study in the United States found that the average adult over 50 only
consume about 75% of the recommended daily intake through diet alone, so many adults in the US
are likely in a constant state of mild magnesium deficiency.
Although there are many good food sources of magnesium, problems with absorption, as we age,
might make it difficult for many people to get enough magnesium, even if they start eating more
magnesium-rich foods. So, taking a magnesium supplement or a multivitamin containing magnesium
might be a good option for many people over the age of 50.
Many widely-available multivitamins formulated for older adults contain around 100 milligrams of
magnesium, which should make up any dietary shortages for most people.
Note: Although calcium and magnesium work together in the body, they also compete for
absorption, so taking them at the same time might result in absorbing less of these nutrients
than taking them at different times.
Why Do You Need B Vitamins?
The B complex vitamins are all water-soluble nutrients that are critical for helping to
metabolize food and turn into energy that can be used by the body. However, several B vitamins
also have important health benefits for people over 50, which indicate that taking B vitamin
supplements might be useful for older adults.
Vitamins B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), and B3 (niacin) are critical for supporting brain health
and cognitive function, as we age. These nutrients have been linked with a reduced risk of
developing Alzheimer’s Disease, as well as helping to improve memory.
Vitamins B6 and B12 have also been linked with maintaining cognitive function in older adults,
as well as lowering your risk of heart disease and stroke.
How Much of Each B Vitamin Should a Supplement Contain?
Because the B complex vitamins are all water-soluble, extra amounts are quickly and efficiently
removed from the body. So, it is difficult to take too much of these nutrients. Because the B
vitamins work together in so many ways, it is often best to take them together as a B complex
Most B complex supplements will contain more than enough of each of the B vitamins. However, not
all supplements will contain all the B vitamins. Check the label to ensure that the supplement
contains thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12. If it contains additional B
vitamins, that is even better.
A good general guide for the minimum amount of each vitamin is as follows:
- B1 – Thiamin: 15 milligrams
- B2 – Riboflavin: 10 milligrams
- B3 – Niacin: 50 milligrams
- Vitamin B6: 5 milligrams
- Vitamin B12: 15 micrograms
Many B supplements contain quantities far higher than these amounts. However, when taken in
extremely large doses, the vast majority of the vitamins are simply flushed from the body and
serve no benefit.