As you age, your body needs fewer calories than it did when you were a young adult. Ingesting fewer calories can make adequate nutrient intake a challenge. The best vitamins for men over 50 will help you obtain nutrients like vitamin D and vitamin B12, in which many older adults are lacking.
Aging, Nutrition and Calorie Consumption
Everyone needs to consume a variety of essential nutrients on a daily basis. However, as you age, the number of calories your body needs changes.
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, adult males between the ages of 18 and 40 typically need between 2,400 and 3,200 calories per day. Exact caloric needs vary, based on how active you are on a day-to-day basis.
As men age, they need fewer calories per day. Men between the ages of 41 and 60 need to consume between 2,200 and 2,800 calories on a daily basis. Men who are 61 and older need between 2,000 and 2,600 calories each day.
Assuming your energy levels stay the same throughout your life, you'll be reducing your calorie intake by 600 to 800 calories by the time you reach senior age. However, if you were a very active young man and are now a sedentary senior male, your daily calorie intake may need to decrease by as much as 1,200 calories.
Such dramatic changes in your calorie consumption can cause issues with your nutrition. While it may have been easy to get enough essential nutrients when you were consuming 2,500 or 3,000 calories, it can be challenging to obtain an adequate nutrient intake when consuming just 2,000.
Furthermore, aging can influence your eating habits in a variety of ways. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, aging can affect your ability to smell and taste, making food less appealing than it used to be. Medications you may need as you age can also affect the flavor of food and make you less hungry. You may even struggle to chew or swallow certain foods as you get older.
You should always try to get your essential vitamins and minerals from the foods you eat, as Harvard Health Publishing recommends. However, multivitamins can be helpful supplements for older men who want to make sure they're getting adequate nutrition. Multivitamins can also be a particularly healthy choice for older adults who consume certain diets, like plant-based diets, that may be low in specific nutrients.
Nutrient Intake for Older Adults
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, older adults should make sure that they're getting enough calcium, potassium, vitamin B12, and vitamin D. According to the National Institute on Aging, magnesium is also an important mineral that people over 50 should make sure to consume in sufficient quantities.
Adults need 2.4 micrograms of vitamin B12 each day. It's possible to obtain this vitamin from fortified foods and animal products like dairy, poultry, meat and seafood.
However, vitamin B12, which is critical for the health of your body's cells and nervous system, is one of the best vitamins for men over 50 to get through multivitamins. This is because this vitamin is a nutrient that adults over 50 don't tend to get enough of. Even when eating animal products on a regular basis, older adults may struggle to absorb this nutrient.
Magnesium is an essential nutrient that is important for muscle and nerve function, as well as blood sugar regulation and cardiovascular function. Men should ingest 420 milligrams of this mineral per day. It can be obtained through a variety of foods and beverages, from leafy greens and legumes to nuts and seeds.
However, older adults don't absorb magnesium as easily as younger adults. According to the National Institutes of Health, men over 70 are particularly likely to be deficient in this nutrient.
'Nutrients of Concern' for Seniors
Calcium and vitamin D are important because they help maintain the health of your bones. Sufficient potassium intake can help reduce high blood pressure and improve cardiovascular health.
Calcium, potassium and vitamin D are considered "nutrients of concern for most Americans" by the Food and Drug Administration. This classification means that Americans of all ages don't tend to consume enough of these nutrients each day.
Adults over 51 years of age should have 4,700 milligrams of potassium on a daily basis. Men between 51 and 70 need 15 micrograms (600 International Units) of vitamin D and 1,000 milligrams of calcium each day. Once you're over 70, you should consume 20 micrograms (800 IU) of vitamin D and 1,200 milligrams of calcium per day.
You can find all three of these nutrients in dairy products (fortified dairy products contain vitamin D). You can also find vitamin D in foods like eggs and seafood; calcium in green vegetables; and potassium in a range of plant-based foods, including bananas, squash, apricots and milk.
Keep in mind that adequate nutrition isn't only about the foods you consume. People can obtain certain nutrients, like vitamin D, from the sun. However, according to the British Nutrition Foundation, your body's ability to synthesize vitamin D decreases as you get older. Vitamin D is consequently one of the best vitamins for men over 50 to obtain through their multivitamins or supplements.
Read more: 9 Ways to Help Avoid Vitamin D Deficiency
Best Multivitamin for Senior Males
Men and women have different nutritional needs. These can change even more with age. This means that the best vitamins for a 70-year-old woman may not be the right supplement for a 70-year-old man.
However, senior-specific multivitamins do tend to have some overlap. Generally, they have large amounts of vitamin D and vitamin B12 — two of the vitamins you're likely to be deficient in if you're over 50.
Multivitamins typically contain minerals too. However, Harvard Health Publishing says that senior multivitamins tend to exclude iron. This is a good thing, because older adults don't usually need additional supplementation of this nutrient.
Older adults may be deficient in minerals like calcium, magnesium and potassium. Calcium supplementation may be particularly beneficial, especially for adults who are lactose intolerant, vegetarian or vegan.
Benefits of Multivitamin Consumption
Most healthy adults don't need multivitamins. However, Harvard Health Publishing and the Mayo Clinic say that multivitamins can be very helpful for certain people.
Multivitamins are particularly useful for older adults who have been diagnosed with health issues like osteoporosis. They're also ideal for people who struggle to consume enough calories or who have nutritional deficiencies.
Even when this is not the case, Harvard Health Publishing says that men may obtain various benefits from regular multivitamin consumption. For example, men who consume multivitamins on a daily basis are less likely to develop cataracts.
A November 2012 study in JAMA reported that men who regularly took multivitamins for more than 10 years had a slightly reduced risk of cancer. This benefit was particularly notable in men who had a previous history of cancer.
Similarly, a March 2015 study in Stroke, the American Heart Association's journal, reported that regular, long-term multivitamin supplementation could reduce the risk of stroke-related death in Japanese men and women. These benefits were most notable in people who consumed low amounts of fruits and vegetables.
Downsides of Multivitamin Consumption
Harvard Health Publishing says that multivitamins are generally safe and harmless. However, according to the Mayo Clinic, you may want to avoid multivitamins that contain high amounts of vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B6 and vitamin B9 (folic acid).
All of these vitamins are considered essential nutrients and should be obtained from the foods you eat. However, there's no need to consume supplements of these vitamins unless your dietitian or doctor has instructed you to do so.
In fact, regularly consuming supplements of certain nutrients — like vitamin A, vitamin B6 and vitamin E — can be harmful and have side effects. For example, Harvard Health Publishing reported that large amounts of beta carotene, an antioxidant that turns into vitamin A, have been associated with lung cancer in smokers.
Similarly, regular consumption of large amounts of vitamin B6 can cause nerve damage and mobility issues. Fortunately, these side effects typically go away when supplementation is stopped.
Unnecessary Nutrient Intake From Multivitamins
Many multivitamins integrate an assortment of essential nutrients into their products. Unfortunately, this means that they can include large amounts of vitamins and minerals that you don't necessarily need.
For example, Rainbow Light Men's One Multivitamin is sometimes referred to as the best multivitamin for men over 50. It contains important nutrients you may want to supplement, like 417 percent of the daily value (DV) for vitamin B12 and 250 percent of the DV for vitamin D. However, it also contains 100 percent of the DV for vitamins A and E.
Similarly, popular products, like Centrum Men Multivitamin/Multimineral Supplement, contain 125 percent of the DV for vitamin D and 250 percent of the DV for vitamin B12. However, this product also contains over 100 percent of the DV for all the nutrients you might not want to supplement, including vitamin A, vitamin E, and B-complex vitamins like vitamins B3, B6 and B9.
It's always best to talk to your dietitian or doctor before you start taking multivitamin supplements. They can advise you on which specific vitamins and minerals you need more of, tell you which nutrients you're already consuming adequate amounts of, and recommend the best multivitamin for men over 50.
It may be best for you to take supplements of specific nutrients, like vitamin D or vitamin B12, rather than a multivitamin supplement. If you decide to take a multivitamin supplement that includes all of your essential nutrients, try one that contains smaller amounts of vitamins A and E.
- Health.gov: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020: Appendix 2. Estimated Calorie Needs per Day, by Age, Sex, and Physical Activity Level"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Nutrition for Older Adults"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Do You Need a Daily Supplement?"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Special Nutrient Needs of Older Adults"
- National Institute on Aging: "Vitamins and Minerals"
- National Institutes of Health: "Magnesium Fact Sheet for Consumers"
- Food and Drug Administration: "Vitamins and Minerals Chart"
- British Nutrition Foundation: "Older Adults"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Should You Take 'Senior' Multivitamins?"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Do Multivitamins Make You Healthier?"
- JAMA: "Multivitamins in the Prevention of Cancer in Men: The Physicians' Health Study II Randomized Controlled Trial"
- Stroke: "Multivitamin Use and Risk of Stroke Mortality"
- Mayo Clinic: "Take Vitamin Supplements With Caution: Some May Actually Cause Harm"
- Rainbow Light: "Men's One Multivitamin"
- Pfizer.com: "Centrum Men Multivitamin/Multimineral Supplement"