2004-01-29 / Medical

Adults 50 And Over Need Vitamins Too

Adults 50 And Over Need Vitamins Too

Vitamins are important not only for growth, also for digestion, mental alert-ness, resistance to infection and other necessary biologic processes. That means that adequate vitamin intake is important for older people as well as children.

Food is the best source of vitamins and minerals and also supplies needed fiber and vital compounds called phytochemicals. These compounds occur naturally in plants and may provide important health benefits including protection from some forms of cancer, heart disease and other conditions.

Many adults do not always eat a proper diet due to lack of appetite, decreased sense of taste and smell, depression, or just not bothering to prepare wholesome meals. For these and other reasons, the Medical Society of the State of New York advises people over 50 to consider taking vitamin supplements.

Potential to Prevent Vision Loss

A recent study published in the Ar-chives of Ophthalmology found that taking a combination of certain anti-oxidants and zinc supplements could prevent vision loss in people at risk for age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Caused by deterioration of the retina, AMD is the leading cause of blindness for people aged 65 and older. Researchers at the John’s Hopkins Me-dical Institutions in Baltimore reported a reduced risk of advanced AMD and associated vision loss among study participants given high-dose antioxidant supplements of vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene, plus zinc or zinc oxide.

An estimated eight million people at least 55 years old in the United States are considered to be at high risk for AMD. The researchers projected that if all people at risk took the supplements used in the study, more than 300,000 people could avoid advanced AMD and any associated vision loss in the next five years.

An editorial comment accompanying the article cautions that the supplements used in the study are not for everyone and should be used "only in patients with intermediate or advanced age-related macular degeneration." For people who have a strong family history of macular degeneration or who for other reasons believe they are at risk for the disease, "it appears appropriate to eat a diet rich in fruits and (especially green) vegetables, to supplement with a multivitamin, and to undergo periodic opthalmalic examinations for the development of intermediate or advanced AMD."

Getting Your Needed Vitamins

Vitamins are not food themselves, but allow our bodies to properly use the carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in the foods we eat. Vitamins are either water-soluble or fat-soluble. Vitamin C, biotin and the B vitamins are water-soluble vitamins; excess amounts of them are washed out of the body in the urine. Excess fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, D, E and K are stored in the body’s fat where they can accumulate to toxic levels. Vitamins E and K affect blood clotting; therefore, people taking a blood thinner should always consult their doctors before taking any supplement with either vitamin E or K.

Since the diets of some older adults are often deficient in more than one vitamin and mineral, a multivitamin-mineral pill supplement may be the best choice. The Mayo Clinic recommends checking the label to make sure the pill has a wide variety of vitamins in the proper amounts, usually 100% of the daily values (DVs). Most experts recommend not using a vitamin supplement that exceeds 100% of the DV for each vitamin and minerals unless your doctor advises otherwise.

DVs are set by the Food and Drug Administration based on a 2,000 calorie-a-day diet. Individual calorie needs vary and affect DVs. Active women and most men need about 2,200 calories a day, and active men need about 2,800 calories a day. Many women and older adults may need only about 1,600 calories a day.

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