Your nutritional needs change as you age, and especially around menopause. While the best way to get your vitamins is from whole foods, dietary supplements can help make sure you're meeting your needs. A good multivitamin can fill nutritional gaps and protect your overall health.
A quick note: Manufacturers typically market vitamins to men or to women, but gender is a spectrum. That's why we're using the term "assigned female at birth" (AFAB) below.
People AFAB who are over 50 can benefit from a multivitamin with doses of calcium and vitamin B12, per the Mayo Clinic, and may also need more magnesium, vitamin C and vitamin D. These nutrients support bone health and may protect against osteoporosis.
- Best for Overall Health: Bayer One A Day Women’s 50+ ($10.47, Amazon.com)
- Best for Magnesium: Thorne Research Women's Multi 50+ Comprehensive Daily Multi-Vitamin ($45, Amazon.com)
- Best Gummy: SmartyPants Women's Masters 50+ Multivitamin ($28.98, Amazon.com)
- Best Without Iron: Centrum Silver Women 50+ Multivitamin ($32.99, Amazon.com)
- Best With Probiotics: Garden of Life Multivitamin for Women 50 & Over ($52.26, Amazon.com)
- Best Budget-Friendly: 21st Century Sentry Senior Women 50 Plus Tablets ($7.99, Amazon.com)
Why People Over 50 Have Different Nutrient Needs
1. Changing Hormones
You have different nutritional needs in your 50s than your 20s or early 30s because your body changes during and after menopause. Estrogen levels go down, which may lead to a greater risk of osteoporosis and fractures, per May 2018 research in Osteoporosis International.
Older people AFAB may have bone loss, irregular heartbeat, night sweats, fatigue, poor sleep and other common symptoms of menopause, per the North American Menopause Society.
2. Weight Gain
Weight gain is also linked to menopause. Menopause causes changes in body composition and fat distribution. Belly fat increases by about 32 percent and visceral fat by 44 percent, according to a June 2017 paper in Menopause Review. Visceral fat wraps around your internal organs, contributing to insulin resistance, diabetes, heart disease and breast cancer, per Harvard Health Publishing.
3. Muscle Loss
Also, muscle decreases with age, per the Mayo Clinic. Muscle loss slows the metabolism, which further contributes to weight gain. Over time, these changes can increase the risk for cardiovascular disease, the primary cause of death in postmenopausal people AFAB, according to the Mayo Clinic.
A balanced diet and regular exercise are crucial for preventing these issues. Healthy eating may help reduce the risk of heart disease and improve the symptoms associated with estrogen decline, according to the British Nutrition Foundation.
What People AFAB Over 50 Should Look for in a Multivitamin
There are a dizzying array of options available when it comes to multivitamins. As well as selecting a supplement that meets your nutritional needs, keep these considerations in mind:
- Brand and certification: Opt for a reputable brand, Ward says. Plus, look for a third-party certification — from organizations such as Consumer Lab, Natural Products Association (NPA) and US Dietary Supplement Verification Program (USP), says Marinaccio.
- Ingredients: This is especially key if you have allergies to soy, corn or wheat, Marinaccio says.
- Expiration Date: "Pick products with the longest shelf life to get the most for your money," Ward recommends.
Certain nutrients are particularly important at this point in your life. You'll want to make sure your multivitamin has the following recommended vitamins for people AFAB over 50.
Postmenopausal people may need larger doses of magnesium to prevent bone loss and inflammation, according to a July 2013 paper in Nutrients.Magnesium deficiency can affect bone health and may be connected to osteoporosis, metabolic syndrome, colon cancer, diabetes, heart disease and sudden cardiac death, per March 2012 research in Nutrition Reviews.
Magnesium supplements are linked to physical performance and muscle function in older people AFAB, per a July 2014 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. People who took 300 milligrams of magnesium daily for three months saw significant improvements in walking speed and scored higher on the chair stand test, which measures lower-body function.
The daily recommended amount of magnesium for people AFAB over 51 years old is 320 milligrams, per the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Ideally, choose a liquid multivitamin containing magnesium citrate, lactate, aspartate or chloride. These forms of magnesium have the highest absorption rates. Beware that zinc may interfere with this mineral when consumed in large doses, per the NIH.
The best multivitamin for people AFAB over 50 should also provide vitamin C. The daily recommended dose is 75 milligrams, but higher amounts are considered safe, per the NIH.
When taken in high-enough doses, this nutrient may increase bone mineral density in postmenopausal people, according to an April 2015 review in Osteoporosis International.
Calcium and Vitamin D
Vitamin D supplements are linked to a lower risk of falls and fractures, per a November 2014 paper in Women's Health. Low levels of this nutrient may worsen osteoporosis symptoms.
Calcium is essential for menopausal people. "Calcium absorption decreases after menopause, and your body needs more to help support bone health," says Elizabeth Ward, RD, co-author of The Menopause Diet Plan: A Natural Guide to Managing Hormones, Health, and Happiness.
It helps increase bone density, reduces bone loss and may protect against fractures, according to the same research. It works best when combined with vitamin D.
Choose a daily multivitamin that provides good doses of these two nutrients. The daily recommended allowance of calcium for people AFAB and ages 51 and up is 1,200 milligrams, while the daily recommended amount of vitamin D is 600 International Units (IU), or 15 micrograms, per the NIH.
Supplemental calcium absorption is highest in doses below 500 milligrams, according to the NIH. In other words, the more calcium you take at once, the less will be absorbed into your body.
Vitamin B12 helps your body make DNA and red blood cells, and it supports brain function, per the NIH. The risk for a vitamin B12 deficiency goes up as we age because we don't absorb the vitamin as well over time.
B12 can be found in animal foods, including fish, meat, milk, chicken and eggs. While it doesn't occur naturally in plant-based foods, some foods, like cereal, may be fortified with it.
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of vitamin B12 is 2.4 micrograms daily for people AFAB and 14 and older, according to the NIH. Older adults may want to ensure they meet these recommendations by eating fortified foods or turning to supplements.
What About A50 Supplements?
While you may have heard that Anadrol-50, which is also known as oxymetholone or A50 supplements, can benefit people AFAB and over 50, there's no evidence to support this claim. Oxymetholone is a synthetic hormone meant to mimic aspects of testosterone and is sometimes used to treat certain types of anemia and boost muscle growth and athletic performance, per the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Here, a look at recommended multivitamins for people going through menopause.
1. Best for Overall Health
Bayer One A Day Women's 50+ is a top pick from an August 2020 report from ConsumerLab, an organization that independently tests health and nutrition products.
The report notes that this multi includes 1,000 IU of vitamin D and some magnesium — although not as much as the recommended daily value (DV). That's common, Ward notes. "It's unlikely to find large amounts in multivitamins, so you may need a single supplement of this," she says.
Another benefit to this vitamin: As the name indicates, you'll only need to take it once a day, which can be convenient.
Bayer One A Day Women’s 50+ ($10.47, Amazon.com)
2. Best for Magnesium
From Thorne Research, the Women's Multi 50+ Comprehensive Daily Multi-Vitamin is a good source of magnesium. (As with the One A Day, it does not supply your full daily value, although it comes closer than many multis with 180 milligrams, or 43 percent DV.)
This supplement is also full of vitamin B12, which Tina Marinaccio, RD, CPT, recommends — with age, absorbing this vitamin can be more difficult. Plus, "B12 protects against irreversible nerve damage called neuropathy," she says.
Thorne Research Women's Multi 50+ Comprehensive Daily Multi-Vitamin ($45, Amazon.com)
3. Best Gummy
In general, gummy forms of multis are best avoided, Ward says. "They tend to have ingredients such as gelatin, sweeteners and cornstarch," she says. Plus, liquid and gummy vitamins often don't supply all the nutrients you need, Ward notes. This is likely due to manufacturing difficulties, per the ConsumerLab report.
But for anyone who struggles to swallow pills (especially multivitamins, which are often giant), a gummy is appealing. If that sounds like you, the SmartyPants Women's Masters 50+ Multivitamin might be a good fit. This brand "seems to have figured out how to do it right," when it comes to gummy formulation, per ConsumerLab.
This supplement contains many important nutrients, including beta-carotene, vitamins K, B6, B12 and D3. Just note that sugar is the first ingredient on the list, and one serving (4 gummies) contains 12 percent DV of sugar.
SmartyPants Women's Masters 50+ Multivitamin ($28.98, Amazon.com)
4. Best Iron-Free
"I take Centrum Silver because I trust it and because it has no iron," Ward says. After menopause, supplementing with iron is no longer necessary unless your health care provider indicates otherwise, she says. Prior to menopause, iron is more essential because "nearly all iron is lost from the body in your monthly period," Ward says.
This supplement has calcium and vitamin D. Plus, it's gluten-free.
Centrum Silver Women 50+ Multivitamin ($32.99, Amazon.com)
5. Best With Probiotics
If you're looking for a multi that's also good for your gut, Garden of Life Multivitamin for Women 50 & Over contains probiotics. Like other Garden of Life supplements, this multi is made from whole foods and free from artificial sweeteners, flavors and colors.
It contains vitamins A, B complex, C, D, E, K and K2.
Garden of Life Multivitamin for Women 50 & Over ($52.26, Amazon.com)
6. Best Budget-Friendly
Because multivitamins are taken daily, a pricey option can add up. The 21st Century Sentry Senior Women 50 Plus Tablets clocks in at less than a dime a pill (prices may vary from one retailer to another). But the budget-friendly price doesn't mean this supplement skimps on nutrients.
This multi contains vitamins A, C, E and K, as well as magnesium and calcium. Be aware that it does also contain iron, which as noted, may not be needed post-menopause.
21st Century Sentry Senior Women 50 Plus Tablets ($7.99, Amazon.com)
Will Multivitamins Work for You?
While there are many recommended vitamins for people AFAB over 50, the research on multivitamins is divided. A March 2012 review in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine states that multivitamin supplements have little or no benefits.
Still, some researchers support taking supplements, and there are no real risks to doing so, per Harvard Health Publishing. The best thing you can do is consult your doctor. If you're low on certain nutrients, these supplements might help.
Make sure your daily nutrients come from whole foods as much as possible. The role of multivitamins is to supplement your diet, not to replace it.
- NCBI: "Vitamin and Mineral Supplements: Do We Really Need Them?"
- Harvard.edu: "Do Multivitamins Make You Healthier?"
- Osteoporosis International: "Estrogen Therapy for Osteoporosis in the Modern Era"
- The North American Menopause Society: "Changes in Hormone Levels"
- Menopause Review: "Obesity in Menopause – Our Negligence or an Unfortunate Inevitability?"
- Harvard.edu: "Abdominal Fat and What to Do About It"
- Mayo Clinic: "Menopause Weight Gain: Stop the Middle Age Spread"
- Mayo Clinic: "Weight Gain in Women at Midlife: Unique Issues in Management and the Role of Menopausal Hormone Therapy"
- British Nutrition Foundation: "Menopause"
- Women's Health: "Nutrition and Bone Health in Women After the Menopause"
- NIH: "Calcium"
- NIH: "Vitamin D"
- NIH.gov: "Sources of Calcium"
- Nutrients: "Magnesium and Osteoporosis: Current State of Knowledge and Future Research Directions"
- Nutrition Reviews: "Suboptimal Magnesium Status in the United States: Are the Health Consequences Underestimated?"
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "Effect of Oral Magnesium Supplementation on Physical Performance in Healthy Elderly Women Involved in a Weekly Exercise Program: A Randomized Controlled Trial"
- Tufts University: "Chair Stand Test"
- NIH: "Vitamin C"
- Osteoporosis International: "Favorable Effect of Dietary Vitamin C on Bone Mineral Density in Postmenopausal Women (Knhanes Iv, 2009): Discrepancies Regarding Skeletal Sites, Age, and Vitamin D Status"
- British Journal of Cancer: "Vitamin C Intake and Breast Cancer Mortality in a Cohort of Swedish Women"
- The Journal of Applied Research: "Supplementation Effects of Vitamin C and Vitamin E on Oxidative Stress in Post Menopausal Diabetic Women"
- NIH: "Magnesium"
- Mayo Clinic: "3 diet changes women over 50 should make right now"
- National Institutes of Health: "Vitamin B12"
- NYU Langone Health: "Lifestyle Changes for Menopause"
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist: "Performance Enhancing Anabolic Steroid Abuse in Women"
- ConsumerLab: "Multivitamin and Multimineral Supplements Review"