The Best Food Supplements for the Elderly
There’s a huge amount of press coverage about the food supplements we should and shouldn’t be taking, and even whether they have any positive effect at all. The majority of elderly people are able to get the vitamins and minerals they need by eating a balanced diet, but could a little help from food supplements be beneficial? And if it could, what are the best supplements to take?
In this guide, we’ll discuss a number of nutritional supplements for the elderly that could be beneficial and keep you in fighting fit health!
Should you take vitamin supplements?
The vitamin and supplements market in the UK is certainly in good health. Mintel Research in 2016 found that almost half the British population consume vitamins and minerals daily – 46 percent to be exact! Young adults primarily taking them to meet their fitness goals, while older people consume supplements to control pre-existing medical conditions and to avoid becoming ill in the winter months.
But despite their widespread use, taking a high dose of a supplement or taking it for too long can do more harm than good, particularly if you already take prescription medication. Your kidneys will flush out nutrients your body doesn’t need, which could mean the money you spend on supplements is effectively going straight down the loo! However, there is research to suggest that vitamins can be helpful for some people, particularly the older people.
Nutritional supplements for the elderly
- Vitamin D – Vitamin D is found in a relatively small number of foods including eggs, oily fish, yoghurt, margarine and fortified breakfast cereals – yum! However, our bodies get most of their vitamin D from the sun. Given the somewhat moody climate in the UK, it can be difficult for people to get all the vitamin D they need. For that reason, it is recommended that those over 65 take a vitamin D supplement of 10 micrograms a day. And when the sun comes out again, you have your natural source of vitamin D back!
- Vitamin C – Vitamin C supplements are certainly popular for the older people, but are they really necessary? Vitamin C is a food supplement many elderly people take to ward off colds and fight disease. However, eating plenty of fruit and veg is a much more effective way of getting the vitamin C you need. If you can eat five portions of fruit and veg a day, with strawberries, citrus fruit, mangoes, peppers and tomatoes particularly good sources of vitamin C, you’ll be getting more than enough of this essential vitamin!
- Calcium – Calcium is an essential mineral with a wonderfully wide range of uses. That includes maintaining strong bones and teeth, helping blood to clot normally and regulating muscle contractions and heartbeat. Dairy products are an excellent source of calcium, as are nuts, leafy vegetables and small fish where the bones are consumed. Taking high doses of calcium can lead to side effects such as stomach pain and diarrhoea, so you should only take a calcium supplement if it has been recommended by your doctor.
- Iron – Iron has a number of important roles including aiding in the creation of red blood cells which carry oxygen around the body. Most people are able to get the iron they need from their diet, with nuts, seeds, meat, eggs, beans, green leafy vegetables and pulses all excellent sources. Iron is not a nutritional supplement the elderly should routinely take unless they have an iron deficiency. Simply having a glass of fruit juice with an iron-rich meal can give you the iron boost you need!
Weight loss in older people and appetite supplements
One common reason why food supplements for the elderly are so popular is that as people age, their appetites tend to decrease. That can make it difficult to get all the nutrients you need from your diet alone. There are a number of causes of poor food intake. That includes:
- Lack of companionship
- Decreased sense of taste and smell
- Difficulty buying or preparing food
- Decreased energy expenditure
- Medications that affect appetite
- Heart disease
- Respiratory diseases
- Poor dental health
There are several nutritional supplements for older people that can help to increase the appetite. Zinc, thiamine and fish oil can all be effective supplements for the elderly to stimulate the appetite. However, we would always advise you to consult a doctor before you take these or any other food supplements.