Do Seniors Need to Take Vitamins? A Guide to What Vitamins Are Good for Older Adults

Last updated Apr. 9, 2019

As we age, we are not always able to collect sufficient nutrients from food alone. That’s why vitamins can play such an important role in the health of older adults.

More than two out of every three Americans over the age of 65 take vitamin supplements every day.1 Find out which vitamin supplements are most popular for seniors, and learn more about why it can be a good idea for many older adults to consider taking vitamins.

Couple preparing vegetables in the kitchen

5 popular vitamins that are good for seniors

There are 13 different vitamins:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K
  • The eight B vitamins
    • B6 pyridoxine
    • B12 cyanocobalamin
    • B3 niacin
    • B5 pantothenic acid
    • B1 thiamine
    • B2 riboflavin
    • B7 biotin
    • B9 folate/folic acid

So which vitamins are most essential for senior adults?

  • Vitamin D helps maintain bone health. This is important for older adults as weakening bones and osteoporosis make falls far more dangerous. Research also suggests that maintaining healthy levels of Vitamin D may help reduce the risk of heart disease, inflammation and diabetes.2

    Vitamin D can be found in cereal, fruit juice, dark green leafy vegetables, canned fish, milk, cheese, egg yolks and fortified plant beverages.

  • Vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin) keeps the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy. It becomes harder for the body to absorb vitamin B12 as we age, which means older adults must make a more concentrated effort to consume it.

    Vitamin B12 is found largely in animal products such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs and other dairy products.

  • Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) aids in the production of neurotransmitters. These are important chemicals that help the brain and nerve cells communicate with one another to ensure a properly functioning metabolism and immune system.

    Vitamin B6 supplementation is also used to treat diabetes, arthritis and memory loss.

  • Vitamin B9 (folate, or its synthetic form folic acid) has been shown in studies to slow or prevent memory loss in people over 60.3 Vitamin B9 also helps convert carbohydrates into energy, which is important for older bodies.

  • Multivitamin supplements are a popular dietary supplement among older adults because they can contain many of the most important vitamins along with key minerals and nutrients.

Why should seniors take vitamin supplements?

There are several reasons why older adults should take vitamins.

  • An older body is less efficient at absorbing key nutrients from food.

  • Certain healthy vitamin-rich foods can become difficult to chew or digest as we age.

  • Our bones become more brittle as we age, and certain vitamin supplements can also give us a much-needed calcium boost.  

  • Older adults may not get as much sunlight exposure as they once did, which causes Vitamin D levels to wane.

  • Medications, especially diuretics, can flush out nutrients before they can be properly absorbed by the body or block them from being absorbed at all.

  • Age-related diseases and conditions can suppress the body’s ability to absorb nutrients, and some may even require a special diet that is low on certain vitamins and nutrients.

  • Older adults may not cook as often as they once did, and ready-to-eat meals can rob you of essential vitamins and nutrients.

Does Medicare cover vitamin supplements for seniors?

There are a few instances in which Medicare may provide coverage for vitamins and supplements for beneficiaries.

Speak to your doctor about any vitamins or dietary supplements that may be recommended for you.

Find a Medicare Advantage plan that supports your healthy lifestyle

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Or call TTY Users: 711 24/7 to speak with a licensed insurance agent.

 

 

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not healthcare advice. Speak to your doctor or healthcare provider about your specific healthcare needs.

1 Swift, A. Half of Americans Take Vitamins Regularly. (Dec. 19, 2013). Gallup. Retrieved from news.gallup.com/poll/166541/half-americans-vitamins-regularly.aspx.

2 Chin, K., et al. Physical Activity, Vitamin D, and Incident Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease in Whites and Blacks: The ARIC Study. (Feb. 17, 2017). The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 102(4), 1227-1236. https://doi.org/10.1210/jc.2016-3743.

3 Mandal, A. Memory boosters for seniors – vitamin B12 and folic acid: study. (Jan. 15, 2012). News-Medical.Net. Retrieved from www.news-medical.net/news/20120115/Memory-boosters-for-seniors-e28093-vitamin-B12-and-folic-acid-Study.aspx.