Nutrition Over 50 - Improving Your Health With Food

NUTRITION - Over the age of 50

A question often asked by patients is, how much of what type of supplements are right for me. Contrary to popular belief, not everyone needs to receive the full line of available supplements and in some cases overuse may lead to a toxicity or a deficiency in other areas. A comprehensive supplementation plan should be designed based on your regular dietary intake, medical history and individual constitution.

For the most part, optimum vitamin and mineral supplementation should come entirely from diet, provided it is balanced and of good quality. Unfortunately, we utilize a large amount of processed foods in our diets, so some supplementation is necessary. Over supplementing is ineffective as the body is unable to absorb it, and a waste of money.

As an individual gets older, their caloric intake becomes less of a need but their nutrient requirements ( vitamins & minerals) remains the same. In general, there is less stomach acid secreted and less absorptive ability as one ages making proper replacement all the more necessary.

What follows are some of the findings from studies on elderly populations as to areas of nutrient deficiencies. Not everyone will be deficient in all these areas. Included are replacement sources. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact the Naturopathic Medical Doctors at TRU HEALTH in Santa Rosa, CA.

  • Vitamin B12 RDA= 6 mcg/day; less is absorbed as we get older due to loss of intrinsic factor from the stomach. It is best supplemented by IM injection or orally. Foods high in B12 are fish, liver, milk and eggs.
  • Vitamin A RDA= 5,000 units/day; needed to maintain skin and mucous membrane integrity, function and repair. It also aids in night vision by helping to maintain the visual receptors in the eye. This vitamin has been found to be low in elderly populations where it is needed the most. Good sources are fresh fruits and salads, carrot juice, liver and spinach.
  • Folic Acid RDA= 400 mcg/day; is often found to be depleted due to prescription drug use. Good sources are green leafy vegetables, salmon, dates, brewers yeast and whole grains.
  • Potassium RDA= none; this very important mineral is often found to be low in persons who are taking diuretic medication.  Good sources are fresh fruits and vegetables, blackstrap molasses, raisins, seafood and bananas.
  • Calcium RDA= 1,000 mg/day; calcium loss increases as one ages due in part to lack of exercise and sedentary life styles. Studies of dietary intakes in elderly populations have shown the average daily intake to be about 500 mg, which is considerably lower than the recommended daily allowance. Good sources  are low fat yogurt, almonds, liver, dark green leafy vegetables, molasses and whole grains.
  • Zinc RDA= 15 mg/day; is also found to be generally decreased in elderly populations and is needed in wound healing, to aid immune function and in men, to prevent prostate disease. Sources high in zinc are nuts and seeds ( can be ground up for easier digestion). If taking a zinc supplement, be sure that you are also taking copper as well as zinc will deplete copper.
  • Sodium RDA= none; also found to be decreased in the elderly, this essential mineral acts with potassium to maintain cell membrane integrity and function and to regulate cellular fluid balance. Good sources are seafood, milk, sea salt and cheese. Serum sodium levels and blood presure should probably be checked before supplementing as excess sodium has been linked to hypertension.
  • Iron RDA= 18 mg/day; deficiencies of iron are not uncommon and is usually due to decreased absorption and low dietary intake. Sources rich in iron are fish, liver, blackstrap molasses and wheat germ.
  • Protein RDA= none; total protein as shown by serum albumin levels are generally decreased. This is due in part to decreased digestive enzyme levels but is also due to poorer dietary intake. A deficiency in albumin may cause problems with mineral transport in the body and can also lead to swelling of the extermities. Good sources of protein are fish, chicken, tofu, tempeh and eggs. Red meat sources, while high in protein, are also high in fat and are therefore less desireable.
  • Vitamin D RDA= 400 IU/day; without any sun exposure supplementation is neceassary. Exposure to sun light for 1/2 hour per day to the face and arms allows for formation of sufficient amounts. Supplemented amounts in excess of 1,000 IU/day may be toxic. Deficiencies can lead to  osteoperosis and fractures. Sources are cod liver oil and sun exposure.

To learn more about your nutritional status or if you have any additional questions, please call 707-292-8882 to schedule a consultation with one of the physicians.

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