Multivitamins and Minerals For Seniors
Written By Kobi Nathan, Pharm.D., M.Ed., CDP, BCGP, AGSF
Sleep Disorders
November 10, 2021

*Updated October 21, 2022

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Vitamins and minerals are critical substances required by our bodies to grow and function appropriately.

Our bodies do not naturally produce these substances, so we must get these nutritional needs met through a varied and balanced diet.

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020, individuals should aim to meet their nutrient requirement goals by eating healthy and having sufficient food intake.

Vitamins

Vitamins are organic elements classified into two categories: fat-soluble and water-soluble.

These terms refer to how vitamins are absorbed when ingesting them, meaning they can dissolve in fat or water before uptake into the body.

Below is a list of common vitamins and their bodily functions:

Water-soluble Vitamins

VitaminFunctionSources
Vitamin CHelps to protect cells and  keep cells healthy
Maintains healthy skin, bones, cartilage, and blood vessels
Assists in healing wounds
Citrus fruit (e.g. oranges)
Strawberries
Broccoli
Brussel sprouts
Peppers
Potatoes
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)Helps release energy from food
Keeps the nervous system healthy
Bananas and oranges
Peas
Whole grain breads
Nuts
Vitamin B2
(Riboflavin)
Helps skin, eyes, and the nervous system stay healthy
Helps release energy from food
Milk
Eggs
Yogurt
Mushrooms
Vitamin B3
(Niacin)
Helps release energy from food
Keeps the nervous system and skin healthy
Eggs
Fish
Meat
Vitamin B6
(Pyridoxine)
Helps release and store energy from protein and carbohydrates
Forms hemoglobin, which carries oxygen around the body in red blood cells
Pork, poultry, fish
Milk
Bananas
Peanuts
Soya beans
Oats
Folate and folic acidHelps form red blood cells
Reduces the risk of birth defects
Brussel sprouts
Broccoli
Leafy greens
Chickpeas and kidney beans
Peas
Vitamin B12Helps form red blood cells
Keeps the nervous system healthy
Helps release energy from food
Fish
Meat
Eggs
Milk
Cheese

Fat-soluble Vitamins

VitaminFunctionSources
Vitamin AHelps the body defend against illness and infection
Maintains vision in dim light
Keeps skin healthy
Eggs
Oily fish
Cheese
Milk
Yogurt
Vitamin DKeeps bones, teeth and muscles healthySunlight
Oily fish
Red meat
Egg yolks
Vitamin EHelps keep skin and eyes healthy
Helps the body defend against illness and infection
Nuts and seeds
Plant oils
Vitamin KHelps with blood clotting
Aids in wound healing
Leafy greens
Vegetable oils

**A word about Vitamin B12 absorption and deficiency – one in 3 Americans have the MTHFR genetic mutation. Read my detailed article on Vitamin B12 deficiency in older adults and the relationship between this mutation, and how you can manage it by supplementing with methylated Vitamin B12

Minerals

Minerals are inorganic substances that are naturally found in the water and soil.

Minerals are organized into two categories: macrominerals and trace minerals.

Our bodies require large amounts of macrominerals, including substances such as calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium.

In contrast, we require only small amounts of trace minerals such as iron, iodine, and zinc. Minerals are also found in the food we eat and serve many functions, as detailed in some common minerals below:

MineralFunctionSources
SodiumMaintains fluid balance
Supports nerve transmission
Involved in muscle contraction
Table salt
Many processed foods
Vegetables
Meats
PotassiumMaintains fluid balance
Supports nerve transmission
Involved in muscle contraction
Fruits and vegetables
Meats
Milk
Legumes
Whole grains
CalciumContributes to healthy bones and teeth
Helps muscles relax and contract
Helps with nerve function, blood clotting, and regulating blood pressure
Keeps the nervous system healthy
Milk
Cheese
Leafy greens
Tofu
Beans
IodineHelps produce thyroid hormonesSea fish
Shellfish
IronCarries oxygen in red blood cells throughout the body
Used in energy metabolism
Meats
Fish
Egg yolks
Legumes
Leafy greens
ZincHelps make protein and genetic material
Aids in wound healing, growth, and immune system health
Meats
Fish
Whole grains
Vegetables

Who needs supplementation with vitamins and minerals?

Most healthy people will not require supplementation with vitamins and minerals.

Individuals should meet their nutrient requirements through healthy eating and consuming nutrient-dense foods.

A diverse and adequate intake of wholesome food will provide enough vitamins and minerals that the body requires.

In certain situations, individual needs vary, and dietary supplements may be helpful for people with certain conditions or diet restrictions.

For example, those with vitamin D deficiency, poor bone health, and osteoporosis will benefit from additional vitamin D and calcium supplementation and what is provided by their diet.

Others with digestion issues or food intolerances, such as those with Crohn’s disease, may need supplementation because they have trouble absorbing nutrients from their food.

Elderly individuals with poor food intake and not receiving essential nutrients may benefit from multivitamins and nutritional supplements.

Therefore, over-the-counter dietary supplements are usually only indicated for those not eating well or those with certain conditions.

How do I know if I need a dietary supplement?

Some people may have conditions where their provider will recommend a certain vitamin or mineral supplement.

Others may be deficient in a certain vitamin or mineral and will need to increase their intake of supplements.

Below are some signs and symptoms associated with common vitamin and mineral deficiencies:

Signs and Symptoms of Vitamin Deficiencies
Vitamin DFatigue
Bone pain
Muscle weakness, muscle aches, or muscle cramps
Mood changes, like depression
Vitamin CRough, bumpy, or dry skin
Bent or coiled hair
Slow-healing wounds
Bleeding gums, nosebleeds or bruising
Fatigue or poor mood
Weight gain
Weak immunity
Vitamin B12Weakness
Fatigue
Pale or yellow skin
Noticeable heartbeats (heart palpitations)
Shortness of breath
Constipation Diarrhea
Vision loss
Mood changes
Vitamin EMuscle weakness
Trouble moving
Numbness and tingling
Immune system problems
Signs and Symptoms of Mineral Deficiencies
PotassiumWeakness
Fatigue
Digestive issues
Noticeable heartbeats (heart palpitations)
Muscle cramps or spasms
Tingling and numbness
Breathing difficulty
Mood changes
IronFatigue
Weakness
Pale skin
Dizziness or lightheadedness
Chest pain or fast heartbeat
Cold hands and feet
Headache
Weak nails
IodineNeck swelling
Weight gain
Weakness and fatigue
Dry skin
Hair loss
Feeling unexpectedly cold
Changes in heart rate
MagnesiumMuscle cramping or twitching
Mental health problems
Osteoporosis
Fatigue
Muscle weakness

Tell your doctor if you experience symptoms related to certain deficiencies or have a condition that affects what you eat or how you absorb food.

Your doctor will likely run blood tests and determine the best course of action if a deficiency is present.

Usually, dietary changes are first-line when treating inadequate intake, but your doctor may decide that a supplement is appropriate.

How are vitamins dosed?

The amounts of vitamins and minerals may be represented differently than your prescription medications. Supplements are usually expressed in terms of milligrams (mg), micrograms (mcg), or international units (IU).

Are vitamin and mineral supplements safe?

There are a few common misconceptions about supplements that are important to note.

Many people assume that because supplements are available over the counter, they must be safe.

Others believe that since vitamin and mineral intake is important for health, taking larger amounts may benefit.

Neither of these statements is true, as supplements can have very strong effects on the body.

Supplements should be taken appropriately, and most of the time, “less” is more.

For example, certain products at too high doses may elevate your risk of bleeding or change your response to anesthesia.

Therefore, it is important to always take vitamins and minerals properly and alert your doctor if you take supplements.

An example of the side effects of too much vitamin intake includes vitamin E.

The maximum dose of vitamin E for adults is 1,000 mg daily (1,500 IU per day of the natural form or 1,100 IU per day of the synthetic form) for those that require it.

Vitamin E decreases the body’s ability to form clots when you are injured. Therefore, if an individual ingested high doses of vitamin E, they would be at a greater risk of bleeding.

Other research suggests that consistent use of vitamin E over several years increases a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer.

With these effects in mind, it is important to only take supplements as recommended by your doctor.

You should be aware of the number of vitamins and minerals you intake through your diet and be careful not to exceed the maximum daily doses.

Supplements can also interact with the medications that you take.

Vitamin E, for example, can interfere with a variety of different medicines and affect how they work.

It interacts with common prescription medications such as blood thinners, cholesterol-lowering drugs, and chemotherapy.

Interactions such as these can occur with other types of vitamins and minerals, decreasing the efficacy of other medications or increasing the risk of a certain side effect.

Can multivitamins slow brain aging?

A newly published clinical study seems to have found evidence that taking a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement for 3 years appears to slow cognitive aging in both men and women by 60%.

The researchers also suggest that this benefit seems to be more evident in study participants who had cardiovascular disease.

The COSMOS-Mind included over 2000 participants aged 65 and over without dementia.

They received cognitive testing at the start of the study with repeated testing annually for 3 years. At the start of the study, the average age was 73 years, with 40% being men.

Almost 89% were non-Hispanic whites, and almost half (49.2%) had some post-college education.

All study groups were balanced according to demographics, cardiovascular disease history, diabetes, depression, smoking status, alcohol intake, and prior multivitamin use.

At the start of the study, cognitive scores were also similar between participant groups.

Researchers saw a significant increase in global cognitive function scores in the group taking the multivitamins.

However, these results must be carefully interpreted with a grain of salt.

More long-term data needs to be gathered to determine this positive effect on cognition fully.

If you decide to begin taking vitamin and mineral supplements, I advise prudent and careful research into the products and the manufacturer.

Is the manufacturer making health claims that are raising red flags?

Do they have a solid reputation?

Do they stand by their statements and claims?

Are they abiding by Current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP)?

Are their products USP-certified?

I have strict standards when recommending supplements to my readers – where possible, any product I recommend must be cGMP and USP-certified.

I am especially excited about the Performance Lab line of products due to their commitment to delivering double-certified products and adhering to the highest quality and standards.

In my opinion, they are some of the best multivitamin supplements available. You can explore their products here:

Men’s Multivitamins and Minerals

Women’s Multivitamins and Minerals

Summary

Maintaining a diverse and healthy diet is the best way to intake all the nutrients your body requires.

Most people will not need to supplement their diet with additional vitamins and minerals.

For a select few with certain conditions or food restrictions, supplementation may be needed and should be monitored by a doctor.

If you take supplements, it is important to note that even over-the-counter medications can cause side effects and be dangerous at high doses.

Therefore, you should always alert your health care provider of your medications, including supplements.

References

  1. https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/ta3912
  2. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/
  3. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamins/
  4. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/do-you-need-a-daily-supplement
  5. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminE-Consumer/
  6. https://medlineplus.gov/minerals.html
  7. https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/962772#vp_2