How nutritional supplements can help older adults

Getting the proper amount of vitamins and minerals is vital for the development of a healthy body and mind in children. This focus does not diminish as we age. Ensuring the proper intake of dietary nutrients is important for people in their senior years. The best way to get vitamins and minerals is from eating a nutritious and balanced diet; however, some older adults, particularly those with chronic disease, may not be able to meet their nutrition needs with food alone. Certain conditions such as dental problems or diminished sensory systems can make eating a challenge or unappealing, which can lead to malnutrition. Therefore, dietary supplements, such as vitamins, may become necessary to help older people who do not eat properly to maintain their health and well-being.

Calcium and Vitamin D

Calcium and vitamin D work together to keep bones strong. Bone loss can happen to both men and women and may lead to fractures in older adults. According to Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020, women over age 50 need 1,200 mg (milligrams) of calcium each day. Men need 1,000 mg between age 51 and 70 and 1,200 mg after 70, but not more than 2,000 mg a day. The guide recommends 600 International Units (IU) of vitamin D for people age 51 to 70 and 800 IU for those over 70, but not more than 4,000 IU a day. Foods that contain calcium include milk and milk products, canned fish with soft bones, dark-green leafy vegetables like kale, and foods with calcium added, such as enriched breakfast cereals. Vitamin D can be found in foods that are fortified with vitamin D like cereals, milk and milk products. It can also be found in foods such as fish, soy milk, pork and eggs. 


This essential mineral also helps to strengthen bones. Potassium is important for cell function and has been shown to help reduce high blood pressure and the risk of kidney stones. It is recommended that males and females 13 and older take in 4,700 mg of potassium a day according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Fruits, vegetables and beans are good sources of potassium. Potassium-rich foods include prunes, bananas, spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, lentils, and kidney beans.

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 performs a wide variety of functions in the body, including involvement with enzyme reactions and forming red blood cells. It is recommended that men take in 1.7 mg of B6 daily and that women have 1.5 mg, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Vitamin B6 can be found in foods such as canned chickpeas, beef liver, tuna and salmon, chicken breast, potatoes, cottage cheese, bananas, rice, nuts and spinach.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 helps to maintain the health of red blood cells and the nervous system. It is recommended that both men and women have 2.4 micrograms of B12 each day. Foods that are sources of B12 include clams, beef liver, salmon, ground beef, yogurt, milk, Swiss cheese and ham.


Fiber is a type of complex carbohydrate found in foods that come from plants like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains. A fiber-rich diet can prevent stomach or intestinal problems and promote regularity. Fiber may also help lower cholesterol and blood sugar. The Dietary Guidelines recommend 25.2 grams a day for females age 14 and older and 30.8 grams daily for males age 14 and older.

If you are concerned about your nutrition and health, consult your doctor for help with solutions.