Aging is a process all human have to go through. In this post, we will be recommending 6 evidence-based supplements for the seniors.
These supplements are mainly used to:
- Slow down the aging process
- Prevent aging-related conditions
- Improve brain function
- Strengthen the immune system
With each supplements, we will first show you why it’s helpful to take the supplement and the evidence behind it.
Let’s dive right in.
Why we age
Aging is caused by the degeneration of cells. Our bodies are made up of millions of these cells. Each with a life of somewhere around two years or less.
Every time before a cell dies, it reproduces itself – but with each duplication, the cell deteriorates a little. So, as our cells change, deteriorate, we grow old.
So in theory, if we can slow down the deterioration of the new cells, we can slow down the effects of aging.
Multivitamin & Minerals
As we age, a few changes occur our bodies, including muscle loss, thinner skin and less stomach acid. Low stomach acid can affect the absorption of nutrients, such as vitamin B12, calcium, iron and magnesium
Also, another issue we may experience as we age is a reduction in our body’s ability to recognize vital senses like hunger and thirst, i.e. we tend to eat less. Eating less means absorbing less nutrients from food.
A good multivitamin for seniors is therefore absolutely essential.
Characteristics of a good multivitamin for seniors:
- Contains all essential nutrients.
- tailored for the seniors
Essential nutrients are basically nutrients that can’t be produced by our bodies and can only get from diet or supplements. Examples of essential nutrients include omega-3, vitamins and minerals. A good multivitamin should contain all the essential nutrients – 13 vitamins and 16 essential minerals.
A multivitamin supplement for a senior should be different from a multivitamin for an adult. Seniors have different needs, for example, they require less energy but more antioxidants. So a good multivitamin for seniors should take that into account.
Beside providing basic daily nutritional requirements, there are also some evidence that shows other benefits of taking multivitamin:
- Prevent heart related conditions (1,2)
- Reduce risk of cancer (3,4,5)
- Improve brain function (6,7)
- Slow down age-related macular degeneration (8)
- Reduce risk of cataracts (9)
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 is another type of essential nutrients – nutrients our bodies can only get from outside source.
There are three types of omega-3s – EPA, DHA, and ALA. ALA is commonly found in plant oils whereas DHA and EPA are most commonly found in marine oils (in other words seafood.)
This is why you often hear fish oil = omega-3. Other common sources of omega-3s include krill oil, flaxseed oil and eggs.
Related reading: Omega-3: Fish oil vs Krill oil vs Flaxseed oil
Why do seniors need omega-3 supplementation?
To start off, in the human diet, EPA and DHA are almost exclusively found in fatty fish and fish oil. Because most people do not consume the recommended amounts of fish, most people are not getting enough omega-3s from their diet.
And decades ago, researchers observed that fish-eating communities had very low rates of these diseases. This was later linked to omega-3 consumption
Throughout the years, many studies have actually shown that omega-3 supplementations can help:
- Improve heart and circulation health (10,11,12,13)
- Reduce blood triglycerides level (which is a risk factor of getting heart disease.)(14,15)
- Fight depression (which is common amongst the elderly people.) (16,17). One study even found that EPA is as effective as antidepressants.(18)
- Improve eye health and reduce risk of macular degeneration.(19)
- Slow down brain function and memory decline.(20,21,22)
Calcium + Vitamin D + Vitamin K
It shouldn’t come as a surprise when we say Malaysians don’t drink enough milk. And for most people, milk is the main and cheapest source of calcium.
In fact, Scientists of the International Osteoporosis Foundation have discovered that Southern and Eastern Asians had the world’s lowest average calcium intakes.
But, we all know that calcium is very important for our health – it makes up much of our bones and teeth.
Why Calcium is important for the elderly
Our bodies go through a process of destroying and remaking of bones every day. When we have low calcium levels in the blood, the rate of destroying of the bones will be faster. The bones destroyed will release calcium into the blood.
In other words, if we don’t get enough calcium from our diets, our bodies “correct it” by breaking our bones and releasing the calcium stored within. If this happens continuously, we are likely to get a condition called osteoporosis (i.e. brittle bones).
Studies have found that older people can absorb calcium less efficiently from their diets. (23) Also, older people produce less vitamin D because of less sun exposure and thinner skin (24), and Vitamin D is needed to help the body absorb calcium.
Why Vitamin K
Recent studies have shown that too much calcium in the blood can cause calcification of the blood vessels.(25) Blood vessels become narrower and harder increasing one’s chance of getting a heart attack or stroke.
That means calcium supplements when taken alone, can increase your chance of getting heart attack if you take too much of it.
To sum it up, seniors are more likely to suffer from osteoporosis due to lack of calcium intake and absorption. Supplementation with calcium is beneficial but there is the increased risk of getting heart attack. An addition of Vitamin K will help to mitigate that risk. Vitamin D and Vitamin K both help to optimize the absorption of calcium.
CoEnzyme Q10 is an antioxidant that occurs naturally in our bodies. They are found most commonly in the mitochondria of our cells. (note: mitochondria is every cell’s “powerhouse” – generating power for the cells)
CoQ10 has several key roles in our bodies:
- They help generate energy in our cells
- Being an antioxidant, they help protect our cells from oxidative stress and damage.
Why CoEnzyme Q10 is important for seniors
CoEnzyme Q10, unlike fish oil or vitamins and minerals, is not an essential nutrient. They can be produced in our bodies.
But as we age, the production of CoQ10 decreases. (27)
It’s also found that as we age, our oxidative stress increases.(28) Increased oxidative stress means that we deplete our antioxidants (including CoQ10) faster.
Finally, many older people use a drug from the statins family to treat their high cholesterol. And one of the side effects of statins is the depletion of CoQ10 levels.
Supplementation with CoQ10 can provide these benefits:
- Protect your heart. (29) Heart muscles are the hardest working muscle groups in our bodies. And CoQ10 is the antioxidant for the muscles. CoQ10 is especially useful for people with heart failure.(30,31)
- Improve diabetes symptoms.(32,33) Studies have found that there is a link between low CoQ10 levels and diabetes. Diabetic patients tend to have lower CoQ10 levels, and people with low CoQ10 are more likely to have diabetes.
- Some evidence to show that it helps to prevent cancer and cancer recurrence.(34,35,36)
- Prevent Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and slow down brain function decline.(37,38,39)
Related reading: Everything you need to know about blood pressure.
L-carnitine is an amino acid that is produced in the body. We can also get L-carnitine from eating animal products such as meat. L-carnitine helps the body turn fat into energy. It’s most commonly used as a supplement to promote weight loss.
Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALCAR) is one form of L-carnitine which crosses the blood-brain barrier more effiently – and this is our recommended form of L-carnitine for the seniors. This form of L-carnitine is most commonly used as a nootropic to boost brain function
Why is Acetyl L-Carnitine (ALCAR) important for the seniors
The reason why we included ALCAR in this list is because of its benefits on brain functions. This benefit is more prevalent in the elderly compared to the younger adults. (Maybe because L-carnitine levels drop as we age)
They can also help reduce fatigue in elderly people due to its promotion of energy.(46)
Other minor benefits of taking ALCAR include:
- Lowering blood pressure (47,48)
- Improving heart health (49)
- Reducing symptoms of type II diabetes (50)
Pycnogenol (also known as pine bark)
Pycnogenol is another name for the extract of French maritime pine bark. It is one of the most common sources of Procyanidins. Pine bark supplements are often marketed as a potent antioxidant to counter aging.
What are procyanidins
Consider procyanidins the “active ingredient” of pine bark. The reason why we take pine bark extract is to get the procyanidins in it. Other sources of procyanidins include grape seed extract, red wine or resveratrol, berries, and cocoa polyphenols.
Procyanidins belong to a group of compounds called flavonoids or bioflavonoids. Flavonoids (also known as tannins) are compounds that give vegetables, fruits, flowers, and bark their colours.
Why do seniors need Pycnogenol
One of the most pronounce effects of Pycnogenol is the improvement of blood flow in elderly people. Procyanidins in pycnogenol help to increase the level of nitric oxide in the blood, and nitric oxide helps to relax the inner muscle of our blood vessels – reduces blood pressure and increases blood flow.(51,52,53,54,55)
Some clinical studies also show that Pycnogenol can help to reduce the blood glucose levels in people with diabetes.(56,57) Pycnogenol helps by delaying the absorption of sugar from a meal. For people with diabetes, pycnogenol can also help to prevent vision loss caused by uncontrolled diabetes. (58)
Finally for seniors, Pycnogenol supplementation can also help to boost brain functions, and reduce age-related brain function deterioration. We still don’t understand exactly why when we age, our brain functions decline. But the increase in oxidative stress seems to play a very important role.
So there you have it, our hand-picked six must-have supplements for the seniors.
- Multivitamins + Minerals
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Calcium + Vitamin D + Vitamin K
- CoEnzyme Q10
- Acetyl L-Carnitine (ALCAR)
- Pycnogenol (Pine Bark Extract)
We have reviewed a total of 100 + scientific papers in order to come up with this list of supplements. Many supplements like SOD, DHEA, grapeseed extract, resveratrol etc were reviewed but not included in this list. (due to insufficient evidence, better alternatives etc)
So what do you think? Any supplements you think that should make it on this list? If you were to start a supplement today, which one would you go for and why?
Comment below to let me know.
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