As we age, we take on less calories, so it can be difficult to get the nutrition we need, simply because we are eating less. In addition to this, our bodies become less efficient at absorbing some key nutrients as shown by research studies such as those undertaken by Katherine Tucker (PhD), chair of the department of health sciences at Northeastern University in Boston. The more common nutrient deficiencies in older people include vitamin D, vitamin C, vitamin B12 and iron.
For post-menopausal women in particular, deficiencies in iron, calcium and folic acid are common so the question is: Can these deficiencies be met with a natural diet or are supplements needed?
The Modern Diet
In 2009, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics published a position paper on supplements. It concluded that multivitamins, when taken regularly, can be an effective way to increase nutrient intakes to recommended levels. However, the best way to promote health and reduce chronic disease risk is to eat a variety of foods. Data such as those highlighted by the ‘A Behind the Headlines‘ report published in June 2011 by the NHS in the UK suggest that it’s the types and amounts of foods people eat, not amounts of individual nutrients that have a positive effect on our health. In other words, we CAN get the nutrition we need from a natural diet.
So why bother taking supplements?
There are a few key reasons why many people will benefit by taking supplements:
- Most people eat a diet consisting of a large quantity of processed foods, which though high in calories, are usually low in nutrition e.g. vitamins, minerals, enzymes
- Modern farming practices grow food on land that is worked hard and often has only one or two types of crop growing on it for many years. This in turn reduces the nutritional content of the soil, which is why virtually all modern farmers use man-made fertilisers
- Most people in the modern world simply do not spend much time buying, preparing and eating whole, nutrition foods
While there is no substitute for eating a well-balanced, whole-food diet, most people will simply not go to the trouble of taking the time to set up such eating habits. This results in a less than optimal diet and various nutritional deficiencies.
Who Benefits Most from Taking a Multi Vitamin and Mineral Supplement?
- Older adults
- Pregnant women
- People who are dependent on alcohol
- Strict vegetarians and vegans
- People who have trouble affording enough whole food
- People with certain health conditions (cystic fibrosis, HIV/AIDS)
- People who take certain medicines that increase nutrient needs (blood pressure medications, certain types of steroids)
At the top of the list is older people and this is the segment of the market that has seen the highest increase in the consumption of nutritional supplementation. In fact, over half of adults aged over 65 take daily vitamins and other supplements says Donald B. McCormick (PhD) a professor emeritus of biochemistry in nutrition and health sciences at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.
The most popular form of nutritional supplementation are one-a-day tablets such as the popular Vital 50+ Multi Vitamin Supplement from Sanatogen. The attraction of such supplements are their ease of consumption and their-all nutritional content; containing vitamins and minerals that are often deficient in older adults.
While the vast majority of people can get their nutritional needs met by a natural diet, if you’re in the demographic group that is as higher risk from deficiencies and you’re not going to consistently eat a well-balanced whole-food diet on a regular basis, then multi-vitamin supplements can have a health benefit.
As always, if you’re suffering from any acute or chronic illness, always consult your doctor first.