Fit in old age – do I need nutritional supplements?

By Arsya Jun 14, 2021

There are many products on offer for the mental and physical fitness of the elderly. Few of them really make sense in old age.

The essentials in brief:

  • The group of the “65+” is mentally and physically very inconsistent.
  • Strong seniors hardly have any different nutritional requirements than younger adults.
  • One-sided eating and the resulting reduced absorption of vitamins and minerals can make targeted dietary supplements necessary.
  • Seniors over 65 years of age are considered a risk group for the supply of vitamin D. A review is advisable here.
  • The frequently advertised effects for plant substances such as garlic, ginkgo or grape seed extract (OPC) in the form of dietary supplements, unlike pharmaceuticals, have mostly not been scientifically proven.
  • To avoid drug interaction or obstruction, speak to your doctor before using any dietary supplement.

How does the nutritional requirement change with age?

From the age of 65 one speaks of older people. The state of health of older people differs depending on their inherited traits, but also on their lifestyle. Smoking, physical activity, diet and obesity have had a major influence both in the past and in the present. You can find out what changes in old age here .

This text is aimed at healthy seniors, special diseases or absorption disorders (reduced absorption of nutrients in the digestive tract) are not discussed here. Targeted nutritional advice would be useful here. Lack of appetite (due to medication, chronic pain, loneliness, or sadness) leading to weight loss is a case for the doctor. Seniors who can no longer cater for themselves, as well as the very old, should also be looked after closely.

As with young people, the amount of nutrients that you need to eat according to your needs depends on your height, body weight and your physical activity. However, with age, muscle and bone mass decrease and fat mass increases. Younger people usually have a higher calorie requirement due to their higher muscle mass and more activity in everyday life (work and sport). By allowing younger people to eat more to meet their caloric needs, it is easier for them to get all of the nutrients in.

A further complicating factor for seniors is that changes in sensory perception (smell, taste), chewing performance, thirst perception and digestion are not infrequently associated with aging. As a result, people eat and drink less and often in a more one-sided way. In addition, the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D with the help of UV radiation (sunlight) decreases. Try this supplement from Bio Lingzhi too.

Which products does the advertising recommend, what makes sense?

There is a large number of nutritional supplements for the elderly group. The increasing small and large complaints in old age mean that everyone is likely to be receptive to tempting advertising messages. And who would not like to age vital, beautiful and healthy? Products against forgetfulness in old age, for smooth, young skin or for active everyday life are just the thing. But not all of these advertising claims have been scientifically proven.

For example, there is no good evidence ( evidence ) that the intake of vitamin or mineral supplements or certain fatty acids in older people maintains mental freshness (cognitive functions) or can prevent dementia. This also applies to vitamin B12 . Beta-carotene and vitamin C from natural foods (especially vegetables) make sense.

Healthy seniors who have a varied diet usually do not need nutritional supplements. In general, the same amounts of nutrients are recommended for vitamins and minerals as for younger adults. For vitamin E , the recommendation is slightly lower due to the lower energy requirement and the associated lower need for unsaturated fatty acids, which vitamin E would have to protect from oxidation. Due to the lack of menstruation, the need for iron in older women is considerably lower.

However, some nutrients require attention:

Vitamin D has a special role among the vitamins, since in this country only about 10-20% is absorbed through food and 80-90% is formed in the skin with the help of UVB light. It is therefore important to let the sun’s rays come into contact with your skin for half an hour every day.

However, since the ability of the skin to produce vitamin D decreases significantly with age, the German Nutrition Society recommends above all seniors over 65 years of age who spend little time outdoors, as well as elderly people with restricted mobility, chronically ill and in need of care (nursing home residents, geriatric patients) – preferably after consulting a doctor – to take 20 µg vitamin D daily with food supplements. If there is already a deficiency, it must be remedied using appropriate drugs.

A low vitamin D status also reduces the absorption of calcium from the intestines. Both nutrients are important for skeletal muscle function. The National Consumption Study II also showed that people over 65 years of age in particular fall well below the recommended intake for calcium. This should also continue to apply, especially since, according to the 13th DGE nutrition report, the consumption of dairy products and cream cheese has declined in recent years. From around the age of 35, bone resorption predominates. Hardly any calcium is stored any more, the bone mass decreases continuously. If too little calcium is now taken in with the food, the bone loss proceeds all the faster. As a result, the risk of suffering from broken bones increases enormously in old age.

Although enough vitamin B12 is absorbed through food, seniors can develop a B12 deficiency. The absorption of vitamin B12 may be reduced due to the age-related decrease in gastric acid production or due to inflammation of the gastric mucous membranes. 30% of people over the age of 65 develop atrophic gastritis, and nutritional supplements can be useful for them. The measurement of the vitamin B12 concentration in the blood plasma is used for assessment. If you have frequent stomach problems, you should ask your doctor whether this examination makes sense.

For sufficient iodine supply, you should at least once a week to eat fish (can also be tomato herring from a can on bread) and household necessarily iodized salt (max. 6 grams of salt per day) in total are used), dietary supplements containing iodine are not necessary.

The frequently advertised effects for plant substances such as garlic , ginkgo , rose root or grape seed extract (OPC) in the form of dietary supplements, in contrast to corresponding pharmaceuticals, are usually not scientifically proven.

By Arsya

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