Decreased intake and nutritional deficiencies are not uncommon among older adults. It is important for men to know how their bodies will change as they age and how to fuel themselves properly to maximize their health.
This article will take a look at how men's nutritional needs change as they age and which vitamins and minerals are important for a thriving body.
Aging and Proper Nutrition
It is greatly important to focus on getting the most bang for your buck when it comes to optimal nutrition as you age. Unfortunately, this is due to the fact that caloric needs decrease with age due to a slower metabolism and a declining skeletal muscle mass . Thus, you have less to work with in order to get all your needs.
Exercise can help to improve this common issue with aging. It will help you to maintain a higher metabolism and allow for greater calorie intake. Due to decreased skeletal muscle, you still won't produce a calorie deficit as great as you were able to in your younger years . However, exercise will still slow down the overall metabolic aging process. Additionally, it will help you to remain strong and stave off acute and chronic injuries.
There are a few other important changes that your body undergoes during the aging process that are important to consider when evaluating how to fuel your body with the right nutrients.
Some research has indicated that older adults have a reduced ability to absorb nutrients as they age . As you get older, stomach acid production decreases, which makes the absorption process of certain nutrients less effective. This can lead to deficiencies in important vitamins and minerals .
Vitamin deficiencies put men at increased risk for certain diseases, weakness, and fatigue. Therefore, it is important to make sure enough essential nutrients are consumed on a consistent basis.
Medications and Chronic Conditions
Medication use becomes more common among aging men . Therefore, it is important to be aware of the fact that certain prescription medications and corresponding chronic health conditions can influence nutrient absorption and needs. Drug-nutrient interactions are a common side-effect with specific medications and could ultimately lead to a deficiency .
Make sure to speak to your doctor about which nutrients could be impacted by your medications.
The risk of disease also increases with age. Older adults are more likely to get heart disease, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and certain cancers (prostate and colon cancer) . A balanced diet rich in vital nutrients can help manage or prevent these diseases.
Key Vitamins and Minerals
There are a few key nutrients to consider consuming after you turn 50. The top vitamins and minerals for men over 50 include vitamin A, B12, B6, C, D, E, calcium, and magnesium. Omega 3 fatty acids are important for men's health as well.
It is theorized that oxidative stress contributes to the decline of the body's cells and tissues during the aging process . Oxidative stress is defined as an imbalance between reactive oxidative species (free radicals) and antioxidants.
Having an excess of free radicals and a lack of antioxidants in the body can cause an increased risk of disease and speed up the aging process. Arming your body with powerful antioxidants will help keep your body protected from the damaging work of free radicals.
The most important vitamins that act as antioxidants for men over 50 are vitamins A, C, and E
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning it gets absorbed alongside fat in the diet. There are two main types of vitamin A: preformed vitamin A (retinol and retinyl esters) and provitamin A carotenoids (beta-carotene), which eventually convert into retinol.
In addition, there are other forms of vitamin A that are classified as beta-carotenes. These stay in their original form and never convert into retinol. These sources include lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin .
Our bodies cannot create vitamin A on their own. Therefore, it is considered an “essential nutrient” and we must consume it in our diet.
Vitamin A acts as an antioxidant in the body and has been shown to provide positive benefits for aging men. Carotenoid intake has been shown to be associated with decreased incidence of inflammation, cardiovascular disease, and mortality . More specifically, lycopene has been shown to have protective benefits against prostate cancer . It has been hypothesized that this is due to its ability to reduce oxidative stress.
In addition to its cancer-protective abilities, vitamin A is able to ward off degenerative eye damage. The eye disorder, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), attacks the retina and is the top cause of vision loss in adults 50 years and older .
AMD slowly reduces the ability to see details needed for important tasks, such as driving and reading. However, lutein and zeaxanthin have been shown to protect the retina from the oxidative stress that causes AMD. Some research has shown protective benefits of lutein and zeaxanthin supplementation in addition to vitamins C and E, which are the important other antioxidant vitamins .
Finally, vitamin A is able to keep men healthy due to its essential role in the immune system. Thus, an appropriate intake of vitamin A can protect aging men from illness and infections .
Sources of Retinol vitamin A include organ meats (beef liver), fatty fish (salmon, mackerel), egg yolks, and fortified milk .
Sources of beta-carotene vitamin A include fruits and vegetables that are rich in red, orange, and yellow colors, such as sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, bell peppers, and tomatoes. Dark green leafy vegetables are also rich in vitamin A, such as spinach, kale, and broccoli .
In order to increase your absorption of vitamin A, pair these food sources with fat. This could look like drizzling a tablespoon of olive oil over a roasted sweet potato or enjoying hummus with broccoli and carrots.
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is another powerful antioxidant vitamin that protects your body from excess oxidative stress.
Unlike vitamin A, vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin. This means that it can be absorbed through water in our bodies. It is an essential nutrient as well, so we must consume it through food .
In addition to keeping your immune system strong, it has been shown to pose positive effects on the prostate. There isn’t any conclusive data pointing to vitamin C consumption with a reduced risk of prostate cancer, but there are some studies showing that supplementation helps prevent prostate enlargement . Prostate enlargement is a benign condition that is common among aging men and linked to various annoyances, such as discomfort while urinating or frequent urination .
Common sources of vitamin C include oranges, grapefruit, lemons, strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli, and bell peppers .
Vitamin E is another fat-soluble, essential vitamin with antioxidant abilities. There are eight different forms of vitamin E that occur naturally: tocopherols (alpha, beta, gamma, delta) and tocotrienols (alpha, beta, gamma, delta) . Alpha-tocopherol is the most biologically active of all forms, meaning it poses the greatest effect on our bodies.
Vitamin E has been shown to prevent many age-related chronic diseases, such as coronary heart disease, vision disorders (AMD), and cognitive decline, .
High levels of LDL can increase the risk of heart disease and oxidized LDL paves the way for atherosclerosis. Fortunately, some studies have indicated that vitamin E prevents the oxidation of LDL cholesterol . Additionally, vitamin E has also been shown to prevent blood clot formation . All these efforts work toward the prevention of heart disease.
Similar to vitamin A, vitamin E has the potential to counteract vision disorders, such as AMD. Studies have indicated that adults who consumed more vitamin E were less likely to develop AMD .
Vitamin E may provide some protective benefits to our brains as well. Cognitive decline and corresponding neurodegenerative disorders are associated with progressive oxidative stress on the brain’s nerves. Because of the high concentration of polyunsaturated fats in our brain’s cell membranes, it is hypothesized that the antioxidant activity of vitamin E can prevent oxidative damage from affecting the brain cells due to its fat-solubility .
There is a diverse range of plant-based foods rich in vitamin E. These include wheat germ oil, sunflower oil, sunflower seeds, almonds, peanuts, spinach, collard greens, pumpkin, red bell peppers, asparagus, mango, and avocado .
Other Important Vitamins
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is considered a nonessential nutrient because it can be created by the body with sufficient amounts of sunlight .
Having proper levels of vitamin D is important as it is needed to properly absorb other nutrients, such as calcium and phosphorus, which are needed for healthy bone growth and maintenance . As the risk for fractures and reduction in muscle mass occurs with aging, it is important to ensure proper vitamin D levels. Fortunately, vitamin D supplementation has been found to be protective of bone health and increases muscle strength with aging .
Vitamin D has been shown to improve cancer outcomes, particularly with colon, pancreatic, and prostate cancers. In addition, cancer mortality has been shown to be less among individuals supplementing with vitamin D .
A variety of animal foods contain vitamin D. The best sources of vitamin D are found in fish oils and fatty fish, such as cod liver oil, sardines, and salmon. However, other sources of vitamin D include beef liver, egg yolk, and fortified foods (milk, plant-based milk, orange juice, and whole-grain cereals) .
Vitamin B12, always referred to as cobalamin, is a water-soluble vitamin and essential nutrient that must be consumed throughout our diet. It is involved in many important functions in the body including DNA synthesis, production of red blood cells, maintenance of the nervous system, and development of brain cells [17,18].
Unfortunately, national data indicates that adults over 50 years old consume less than the recommended amount of vitamin B12 (2.4 mcg per day) . Stomach acid production also declines with age, which reduces the ability to absorb the vitamin .
The risk of a vitamin B12 deficiency should be avoided with age due to dangerous side effects ranging from cognitive decline, balance disturbances, loss of bone density, and increased risk of heart disease .
Vitamin B12 is found mostly in animal-based foods including fish, shellfish, organ meats, red meat, eggs, poultry, and dairy products. Plant-based sources of vitamin B12 include nutritional yeast or fortified foods (breakfast cereals, soy milk, and rice milk) .
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
Vitamin B6, or pyridoxine, is another water-soluble B-vitamin and essential nutrient. Vitamin B6 plays important role in your metabolism and immune system . A deficiency in this vitamin can lead to an increased risk for heart disease, a weakened immune system, and cognitive decline [2, 21].
In fact, after the age of 50, the daily recommended intake of vitamin B6 increases, with men needing slightly more than women .
Sources of vitamin B6 include chickpeas, organ meats (beef liver), chicken, salmon, cottage cheese, bananas, and spinach .
In addition to these important vitamins, there are a few beneficial minerals to consider that help support men as they age, including calcium and magnesium.
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body, located in bones, teeth, nerve cells, blood, and tissues . It is also an essential nutrient, so our bodies cannot produce it outside of dietary intake.
As previously discussed, vitamin D helps absorb calcium. Calcium therefore must be prevalent in the body. Without adequate calcium, men are at risk for decreased bone density, fractures, and osteoporosis.
The recommended daily intake of calcium does not change after turning 50, but rather once you reach 70. Although these conditions are more common among elderly men rather than middle-aged men, the amount of calcium consumed now can set you up for better long-term bone health.
Milk, cheese, yogurt, and fortified foods (orange juice) are well-known calcium-rich foods. However, there are many other foods high in calcium as well. These include edamame, tofu, sardines, winter squash, almond, and dark leafy green vegetables (kale, spinach, collard greens), and plant-based milk alternatives (almond, soy, rice milk) .
Magnesium is an important mineral for men’s health that acts as an antioxidant alongside the vitamins previously discussed. Magnesium plays a role in a variety of vital bodily processes including energy production, DNA synthesis, muscle function protein synthesis, blood sugar control, regulation of blood pressure, nerve function, and moving calcium and potassium into cells .
Magnesium intake can also help men improve their physical fitness as they age, likely due to its role in energy production and muscle function. Some research has indicated that proper magnesium intake and/or supplementation can improve strength, aerobic, and anaerobic fitness .
When magnesium deficiency occurs, it can cause an array of issues, including excess inflammation, decreased muscle mass and exercise performance, weakening of the immune system, and increased risk for specific diseases, including atherosclerosis and diabetes [25, 26]. In order to maintain energy and fitness levels and enhance longevity, adequate magnesium intake is critical.
Magnesium is mostly found in plant-based foods, including seeds (chia, pumpkin seeds), nuts (almonds, cashews, peanuts), peanuts, beans (black beans, kidney beans), edamame, plant-based milk alternatives (soymilk), spinach, potatoes, and whole grains (brown rice, oats) .
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 fatty acids are a type of essential polyunsaturated fat. There are three main types: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA, and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). All three cannot be produced by the body and must be received through your diet. Omega 3s act as an antioxidant, demonstrating significant anti-inflammatory properties on the body .
Omega 3s are greatly beneficial as men age for a variety of reasons. They have been found to help decrease inflammation, improve brain health and mental sharpness, improve memory, delay cognitive decline, decrease blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease, and improve physical strength and performance .
Sources of ALA include plant-based sources including seeds (flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds), plant oils (flaxseed oil, canola oil), and walnuts.
Sources of EPA and DHA include fatty fish, such as salmon and sardines.
Taking Vitamin Supplements
Because it can be difficult to meet all your nutritional needs through your diet with decreasing caloric needs, it may be appropriate to consider a supplement with essential vitamins and minerals.
Although, prescribing yourself the first over-the-counter supplement could be ineffective or unsafe. Make sure you are getting your needs properly assessed based on lifestyle factors and blood values before moving forward with a dietary supplement.
With a Rootine membership, there is no guessing whether your supplement is right for you. Rootine provides you with a personalized supplement that is safe and accurate to your needs.
The cutting-edge supplement form (microbeads) provides you with efficient nutrient absorption so you can trust that your body is getting all that it requires as you age.
Take the Quiz
Get started assessing your needs with Rootine by taking our customizing quiz.