The use of supplements has increased significantly in the last decade as people look to meet the requirements of good health and defy the aging process. In the UK there are a range of specialist health food stores which stock a whole host of different supplements.
According to the NHS, the UK market for dietary supplements and vitamins was worth more than £670 million in 2009. But which supplements do you need? Which ones are good for you and how much should you be taking?
Today's article will explain when and how you should take certain supplements and the benefits that they will bring.
Before you take Supplements
Supplements are generally considered to help decrease the risk of some medical conditions and to complete what may be missing from your diet. In many cases, older people's diet lack a sufficient number of calories to cover the essential nutrients.
Before taking any supplements it is important that you speak with your doctor. If misused, supplements can be dangerous and also leave you out of pocket.
A high dosage can do more harm than good, especially if you're taking medication. If you're taking too many vitamin supplements, your kidneys will simply flush out what your body doesn’t need, which could mean that your expensive supplements end up going straight down the toilet.
Vitamin D is important for your muscle and bones. You can usually find vitamin D with oily fish such as mackerel and salmon, alongside eggs. Your body will also produce vitamin D from the summer sunlight but this might not always be possible for older people.
Vitamin D is important in the fight against osteoporosis and other conditions. It is advised that everybody over 65 has a supplement of 10 micrograms of vitamin D during the autumn and winter months to make sure that your body has enough. The following people should definitely consider vitamin D:
- Those who wear long clothes and don't allow sunlight to hit their skin.
- Those who don't go outside often - frail or housebound.
- Those in an institution such as a care home.
You need to make sure that you don't take more than 25 micrograms (mg) per day as this could be harmful to your body. It could lead to the build up of too much calcium in your body, which can weaken your bones and damage your kidneys and heart.
You should also remember not to remain in the sunshine for long periods of time during the summer months.
As we get older it becomes harder to absorb vitamin B12, which can be found in meat, cheese, milk, eggs and fish such as cod and salmon. Not having enough of this vitamin are put at risk of anaemia and neurological issues such as memory loss.
It is suggested that adults aged between 19 and 64 need around 1.5mg a day of vitamin B12. Keep to a supplement of two micrograms or less is unlikely to cause any harm to your body. Keeping to a varied and balanced diet is the best way of boosting the level of vitamin B12 in your body.
Vitamin A helps your body's natural defence against illness and infection to work correctly. It also helps your eyes to cope in dim light and keeps your skin and the lining of some part of your body healthy.
It can be found in foods such as cheese, eggs, oily fish, milk and liver products. Liver pâté is a particularly rich source of Vitamin A, so you need to make sure that you don't have this more than once a week.
The amount of Vitamin A that you need is 0.7mg (male) or 0.6mg (female) per day. Having more than an average of 1.5mg a day of vitamin A over many years may affect your bones, making them more likely to fracture when you're older.
Many multivitamins contain vitamin A. Other supplements, such as fish liver oil, are also high in vitamin A. You need to make sure that to don't exceed the 1.5mg limit in order to remain healthy.
These supplements are commonly used to try and fight off colds, however there isn't much evidence to support this theory. Vitamin C can be found in a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, which is why is it important to follow your five-a-day rule.
It is said that adults aged between 19-64 need 40mg of vitamin C per day. Taking large amounts of more than 1,000mg per day can cause problems, such as stomach pains, diarrhoea and flatulence.
A healthy diet should mean that you don't need to take many vitamin C supplements.
Iron is very important for your red blood cells, which carry oxygen around your body. An iron deficiency can cause you to feel tired and have a lack of energy on a regular basis, as well as a shortness of breath and heart palpitations.
A good source of Iron can be found in red meat, eggs, wholegrain, beans, nuts and seeds. Suggested amounts for Iron are:
- Men over 18 - 8.7mg per day.
- Women aged 19-50 - 14.8mg per day.
- Women aged over 50 - 8.7mg.
Older people should not routinely supplement with iron unless they have a known reason for iron deficiency, such as a recent operation which involved blood loss or those who have a vegan diet. Having this issue when you're over the age of 50 can be a sign of an underlying health problem, which should be investigated by your doctor.
A high dose of iron is considered to be over 20mg, and can cause problems such as vomiting, stomach pains and constipation. Very high doses of iron can be fatal, particularly if taken by children, so always keep iron supplements out of the reach of children.
Calcium helps to build strong bones and teeth, helps blood to clot normally and regulates muscle contractions. A lack of calcium can lead to conditions such as osteomalacia or osteoporosis in later life.
Sources of calcium can be found in diary products such as milk, cheese and yogurts. It can also be found in green leafy vegetables, nuts and fish-like sardines where you eat the bones. It is recommended that we all have 700mg of calcium a day.
A high dose of calcium (more than 1500mg a day) can lead to stomach pains and diarrhoea. Eating three to four portions of diary products a day should be enough for your body's needs. Supplements are commonly suggested to help those who have an increased risk of a fracture.
Iodine can be found is sea fish and shellfish and helps to make thyroid hormones, which help to keep cells and metabolic rate in your body healthy. Adults are advised to have 0.14mg of iodine a day, which can be achieved through a varied and balanced diet.
Having too much iodine can change the way your thyroid glands work, which can trigger several symptoms such as weight gain. Taking 0.5mg or less a day of iodine supplements is unlikely to cause any harm.
Having a personal alarm in your home could be essential should you suffer any of the symptoms linked to a high dose of supplements. One push of your MyAmie Pendant button will send an alert through to our 24-hour Response Team, who will respond immediately.
For more information about our life-saving service, please get in touch with our friendly team on 0800 999 0400. Alternatively, complete our contact us form and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
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