Senior Scene: Vitamin Supplements

Serene Karplus, Nederland. Everyone offers us advice when fighting a cold or bug – Vitamin C, Zinc, osha, turmeric, barberry, you name it – and someone swears it is the best. Likewise, for every health concern, deficiency, or ailment, some expert claims that a certain supplement is the ideal remedy. Last week at lunch, Nutritionist Patti Murphy from the Boulder County Area Agency on Aging shared with us the following information from her research on supplements.

Food sources are generally better nutritionally than any supplement, with some exceptions. Foods have multiple additional natural chemicals that can help process and assimilate other naturally occurring vitamins and minerals.

Consuming the recommended amount of vitamins and minerals is important. More is not necessarily better and may even be harmful. The fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K can be dangerous in excess, as they are stored, and build up in the body. The water-soluble vitamins Bs and C are flushed out when in excess.

“RDA” is short for Recommended Dietary (or Daily) Allowance, which is the average daily dietary level that meets the nutrient requirements of nearly all healthy individuals. Key in this concept is “healthy” individuals, so these are maintenance levels, and a doctor may recommend supplements or even shots to boost a deficiency that is causing poor health.

Older adults need more calcium and Vitamin D than younger people. As we age, especially for postmenopausal women, bone breakdown exceeds formation, resulting in bone loss and an increased risk of osteoporosis.

Preventing bone loss can make the difference between a fall being an inconvenient mishap and a changed life. At least 1,200mg a day of calcium (but not more than 2,000mg/day from all sources) must be paired with Vitamin D (10mcg/day) for better absorption.

We need more Vitamin D than this, though. Between ages 51 and 70, 600IU or 15mcg is best, but as we age we need more, so those over age 70 need 800 IU, or 20mcg. As few foods are high in this vitamin (mushrooms), we need to acquire it from supplements or manufacture it from sunshine on our skin. In weather we can expose our arms in at least twice a week for up to 30 minutes of sunlight between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., we may obtain enough just from the sun.

Vitamin C may help in preventing hardening of the arteries, cancers, cataract formation, lung disease and cognitive decline. These effects are best achieved not from supplements but from foods such as citrus and other fruits and vegetables.

Vitamin B-12 helps build red blood cells and maintain proper function of nerve cells to help prevent anemia, neuropathy and cognitive impairment. Older adults are commonly deficient in this and should take supplements of B-12 (total 2.4mcg) or fortified foods because older bodies absorb these better than from ordinary food sources.

Potassium aids with proper heart, kidney and nervous system functions, as well as muscle contraction, regulating blood pressure and maintaining bone calcium. Present in many common foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans, milk, meat, poultry and fish, it is widely available, but most people still do not get the 4,700 mg/day RDA.

Omega-3 fatty acids reduce the risk of stroke and are best consumed as fatty fish two to three times a week or supplemented with 250-500mg EPA and DHA in fish oil. Vegetarians should take algae oil, as flax is more difficult to absorb.

Patti suggests we first consult with a physician before making significant dietary changes. Generally, she recommends consuming a daily multivitamin that contains Vitamins A, Bs and C, along with potassium, Omega-3 oil, and calcium with Vitamin D, unless a sufficient quantity is in the multivitamin. Choose a brand that has been in business a long time or that has been third party lab tested for efficacy.

All ages of adults are welcome at all events. Sign up for all meals and events at 303-258-0799 or or by email at Meals are served at the Nederland Community Center. Please call two days ahead for lunch reservations (more for dinners and breakfasts if possible). Missed the deadline? Call anyway. Please note that all age 60+ are welcome at meals regardless of ability to contribute financially.


2/16, Fiske Planetarium: Black Holes
2/22, MPL Dinner & Storyteller Tales of Love
2/26, Butterfly Pavilion & Lunch, 9:30 a.m.

Mtn Peak Life Lunch – Monday & Wednesday, Noon
Exercise at St. Rita’s – Monday & Wednesday, 10:30 a.m.
Pickleball at Ned Comm. Ctr. – Mon., Wed., Sat., 10 a.m.
Int’l Folk Dance at Ned Comm. Ctr. – Most Mondays, 7 p.m.
Writing Skills at Ned Comm. Library – 1st and 3rd Monday, 1 p.m.
Writing Life Stories at Ned Comm. Library – 2nd & 4th Wednesday, 1 p.m.
NedKnits at Nederland Comm. Library – 2nd Thursdays, 1-3 p.m.

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