Does Age Affect Your Multivitamin Needs?


Many of us take a multivitamin on a daily basis.  Although it is in theory possible to get all the nutrients your body needs from your food, most of us like the reassurance of a multivitamin to fill in any deficiencies. But you may have noticed that there are multivitamins available nowadays aimed at different age groups.  So you may wonder if your nutritional needs change as you age or if it is just a marketing gimmick.

Vitamins and Minerals For Children

multivitaminsWhile children are growing and developing they need a wide range of nutrients to support the changes their bodies are going through.  Ideally they would be getting these from their meals but there are many reasons they might not be getting the full amount they need.  Children on regular medication, such as asthma suffers, may not be absorbing as many nutrients from their food as normal.  Children who are very picky eaters may be missing out on some vital nutrients.

Concern for children’s development has led the Department of Health in the UK to recommend that all children aged 6 months to 5 years are given vitamin supplements containing vitamins A, C and D every day. However caution is needed when giving children supplements as the effects could be adverse instead of beneficial.  Ideally, a food dairy would be kept and research done to work out which vitamins or minerals their diet is missing. Care has to be taken in checking if some of the food they eat has been fortified with nutrients, such as B vitamins, vitamin D, calcium and iron, as then there is a possibility of overdosing.  If possible it would be advisable to consult a professional.

Vitamins and Minerals For Teenagers

Rapid growth is still taking place through the teenage years with the added complications of puberty.  Pressure from the media and friends can lead to restrictive diets and over exercising.  Greater freedom and responsibility for what they eat can result in many teenagers indulging in junk food.  The pressures of taking exams and make major life choices can lead to high levels of stress that affect the digestion and how the body absorbs it’s nutrients.  This is also the age when many choose to become vegetarians or vegans without the knowledge to compensate for the restrictive diet. All of these things can combine to deficiencies in a teenager’s diet

Vitamins and Minerals For Adult Men

The micronutrient requirements for males stay more or less constant once they reach maturity until they start to be affected by the ageing process.  There are some nutrients that are especially important for men.  According to the World Cancer Research Fund there is strong evidence that foods containing lycopene and selenium can protect against prostate cancer. Low testosterone levels are also of concern to men and can cause sleep apnoea, low metabolism, libido and fatigue. Both Vitamin D and Magnesium supplementation, especially with an increase of exercise, can help with blood levels of testosterone.

Vitamins and Minerals For Adult Women

A woman’s nutrition needs can be very different to a man’s.  Care needs to be taken as the standard recommended amount on an ingredients list is for a man unless specifically stated otherwise. Women need less Vitamin A, Thiamin, Ribofavin, Niacin and Vitamin B6 than a man.  The minerals females need less of are Magnesium, Zinc, Selenium.  Women need more iron, mainly to compensate for blood loss during menstruation. Women also need to be careful of their calcium levels, particularly in their early 20s as they are still building bone density.

A lack of calcium can lead to osteoporosis later in life, something women are more prone to than men.  Women can be greatly affected by hormonal swings leading to emotional problems. Some have found supplements like Vitamin D, Vitamin B6, Magnesium or Calcium can help ease some of the symptoms. Folic acid is also vital before conception and during the first twelve weeks of pregnancy as it reduces the incidence of neural tube defects (e.g. spina bifida) in babies. Since almost half of all pregnancies are unplanned it would be prudent to keep a woman’s folic acid levels high.  Obviously, when a woman is pregnant and breastfeeding all her nutritional needs change and care must be taken to make sure she has the right levels so as not to harm the baby while still giving her the nutritional support she needs.

Vitamins For Older Ones

Sadly the ageing process affects all of us eventually and this changes our nutritional needs, including the amount of vitamins and minerals we need. One surprising reason for this is that there is a reduction in gastric acid as we age, so younger people can absorb and readily use more micronutrients than older ones. This means the ability to assimilate micronutrients is reduced as we age. Vitamin D is one micronutrient in particular that those aged 65 and over seem to lack and they are recommended to take a vitamin D supplement.  On the other hand, older ones need less Niacin and older men need less Thiamin.  Older women no longer need extra iron and should stop taking extra folic acid.  In addition, care should be taken with Vitamin A, usually found in fish liver oil as retinol, especially if eating liver is a regular habit.  Some studies have shown that this combination can have a possible adverse effect on bone health.

As you can see, our age can make a lot of difference to which vitamins and minerals we need.  It’s always worth doing some research to check you are taking the best option for your age and if in doubt, check with a professional.

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