Vitamin Essentials as We Age
As we age, our dietary requirements change, and we're also more focused on the diseases and disorders that accompany aging -- conditions that getting the right nutrients may help to prevent.
Don't Forget Your D
Vitamin D is calcium's indispensable partner. It's essential
for proper absorption of the calcium you get in your diet. But as we get older,
our ability to synthesize vitamin D in sunlight through our skin diminishes,
says Irwin Rosenberg, MD, professor and dean of the Friedman School of
Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. "Therefore, our
dependence on dietary sources of Vitamin D goes up. We either have to get it
through our food, especially in the winter, or we have to get it through
Adults between 50 and 70 should be getting 400 IU
(international units, the measurement usually used on vitamin D labels) of D
per day. Once you're over 70, the recommendation goes up to 600 IU daily.
That's not always easy to get through dietary sources, which are primarily
fortified milk and cereals, liver, and fish. "As we age, D is one of those
vitamins I think we're unlikely to meet our needs for through diet alone,
especially during the winter months," says Rosenberg.
Another vitamin that we tend to get less of as we age is B-12,
which is naturally found in animal foods and proteins including meat, eggs,
milk, fish, and poultry, as well as in fortified cereals. Adults of all ages
should get 2.4 micrograms of B-12 daily (pregnant and breastfeeding women need
a little more).
"Research has shown that as we grow older, we tend to make
less stomach acid, and stomach acid is required for the efficient absorption of
vitamin B-12," says Rosenberg. That's because B-12 needs to be separated
from the protein it's bound to in your food before you can start making use of
it." The Institute of Medicine recommends that adults over 50 get most of
their vitamin B-12 from supplements or fortified food because of impaired B-12
So what can B-12 do for you? Quite a lot, if you're concerned
about your memory and cognitive (mental) function. "This vitamin is one of
the important requirements for the maintenance of healthy central nervous
system function [brain and spinal cord]," says Rosenberg. "In the
absence of that vitamin, you're likely to see some decline in memory and
cognitive function as well as other neurologic abnormalities."