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If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
If you’re over 50, I probably don’t need to tell you that your body’s needs change as you get older.
You may notice a few more snaps, crackles, and pops as you get out of bed in the morning. Maybe certain health conditions have cropped up over the years that may or may not need to be managed with medication. And if you exercise, you may need a little more time to recover from an intense workout than you used to.
Your multivitamin needs are a bit different, too. Nutrient deficiencies are more common as people get older, so it’s important to take the right balance of vitamins and minerals to address those gaps.
What’s the best multivitamin for men’s health, especially for older men? Keep reading for some guidance on how to make sure your multivitamin fits your nutritional needs.
Should men over 50 take a daily multivitamin?
There’s some controversy about multivitamins. Some studies have shown they don’t really change much in the way of health outcomes (even when people who take multivitamins think of themselves as healthier than average) (Paranjpe, 2020).
Other studies show little impact of multivitamins on heart disease or overall cardiovascular health (Kim, 2018).
The benefits of multivitamins, though, become a lot clearer past age 50 (and even more so with each passing decade). Multivitamins may have the following benefits in an aging population (Ward, 2014):
- Possible improvements in cognition and memory
- Likely helps with iron-deficiency anemia (with multivitamins that contain iron)
- May help combat bone disease
- Small chance of improving eye health, but that link is unclear
The ideal scenario is to get all the vitamins and minerals you need directly from a balanced diet. But many Americans have nutrient deficiencies (over 30% of the population is at risk of deficiency from at least one vitamin or mineral).
Older adults are at the highest risk of vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Generally, this is because people tend to eat fewer calories as they get older, often due to underlying health conditions (Kaur, 2019; Bird, 2017).
With all that in mind, a vitamin supplement may be beneficial if you’re over 50 (especially if you have known deficiencies). And there are a few downsides or risks of taking a daily multivitamin.
What should men look for in a multivitamin?
Not all men’s multivitamins are created equally. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate dietary supplements to the same extent as prescription medications, so it’s mostly left up to you to figure out which supplements are best for you (Starr, 2015).
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To help you make the right choice, here’s what we recommend. It’s best to look for a multivitamin that addresses the most common nutrient deficiencies in men over 50 with these key nutrients.
Vitamin D deficiency is a major concern in older age, as bone loss and frailty become more prevalent. This can lead to hip fractures and other debilitating events. Diet is a major factor, but another aspect is that, with age, the skin loses its ability to synthesize vitamin D from the sun.
If you know you’re deficient, make sure your multivitamin supplement includes at least 600–800 IU of vitamin D2 or vitamin D3. If you’re at particular risk for bone loss or fractures, 1000 IU of vitamin D, along with 1200 mg of calcium, is recommended (Kaur, 2019).
There are eight different B vitamins, all of which are essential vitamins for overall health. The most common B vitamin deficiencies in older people are vitamin B12, vitamin B6, and vitamin B9 (folate or folic acid).
One thing that’s common with these deficiencies is an increase in levels of an enzyme called homocysteine, which is associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
It’s a good idea to take a multivitamin that includes sufficient levels of folic acid, vitamin B12, and vitamin B6. You may also consider taking a B-complex (which contains a mix of different B-vitamins) if your multivitamin doesn’t contain enough (Kaur, 2019).
The recommended daily intake for vitamin B12 (which is involved in helping the body make red blood cells) is 2.4 mcg per day. For vitamin B6 (which plays a big role in metabolism), it’s 1.3–1.7 mg per day. And you’ll want to aim for 400 mcg of folate (an important part of making and repairing DNA) daily (Ward, 2014).
In general, women are at higher risk of iron deficiency than men, but as people get older, that divide decreases. In fact, past age 75, men are more likely than women to develop iron deficiency anemia.
It’s recommended to take 8 mg of iron per day. There’s some evidence that eating foods high in vitamin C can help with iron absorption if you have a known iron deficiency (Kaur, 2019).
Anemia: symptoms, causes, types, treatment
Zinc is an essential nutrient for helping the immune system function the way it should. It also helps with cognitive function, has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, and contributes to several other aspects of health.
With age, many people stop absorbing zinc properly, so zinc deficiencies are common with old age. Zinc supplementation of 11 mg per day for older men is recommended. A high-quality vitamin and mineral supplement should include the recommended amount of zinc (Kaur, 2019).
Magnesium absorption decreases by about 30% in people over 50, making magnesium deficiency quite common. Magnesium plays a big role in many aspects of health, including heart health, blood pressure regulation, sleep, depression, bone health, and more.
Adult men over 50 should consume 400–420 mg of magnesium daily (between food and supplementation). Just be careful not to exceed this amount, as too much magnesium can cause some gastrointestinal side effects, like diarrhea, constipation, and stomach pain (Schwalfenberg, 2017).
Watch out for these vitamins
It’s important to look at the label of your one-a-day carefully to make sure it doesn’t contain any concerning micronutrients. Dietary supplements can interact with different medications and health conditions, so it’s good to be cautious.
Even if a multivitamin markets itself as the ideal wellness tool (whole food, gluten-free, allergen-free, filler-free, non-GMO—the works), it’s still important to understand what you are taking. Vitamins A and K are the vitamins and minerals you probably need to watch out for most. Here’s why:
- Vitamin A: We all need vitamin A, but in high doses, it may be dangerous. High doses have been associated with osteoporosis, bone loss, and hip fractures. Your multivitamin shouldn’t have more than the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of 900 mcg for men (Hamishehkar, 2016).
- Vitamin K: Certain people shouldn’t take vitamin K (beyond what they get from food). If you have kidney disease or if you’re on blood thinners (like warfarin), it’s important to make sure you’re not taking too much vitamin K (Imbrescia, 2020).
As you get older, you might be concerned about prostate cancer, immune health, energy levels, and all sorts of other things you probably didn’t think about much a couple of decades ago.
A daily multivitamin can’t address all of these issues (for instance, there’s no data showing any real relationship between multivitamins and prostate health), but it still may be useful to take.
Just be sure to speak with your healthcare provider before starting on a men’s multivitamin or any other supplement often touted for improving men’s health (like selenium, saw palmetto, or lycopene), especially if you take other medications.
- Bird, J. K., Murphy, R. A., Ciappio, E. D., & McBurney, M. I. (2017). Risk of Deficiency in Multiple Concurrent Micronutrients in Children and Adults in the United States. Nutrients, 9(7), 655. Doi: 10.3390/nu9070655. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5537775/
- Hamishehkar, H., Ranjdoost, F., Asgharian, P., Mahmoodpoor, A., & Sanaie, S. (2016). Vitamins, Are They Safe?. Advanced Pharmaceutical Bulletin, 6(4), 467–477. Doi: 10.15171/apb.2016.061. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5241405/
- Imbrescia, K. & Moszczynski, Z. (2020). Vitamin K. StatPearls. Retrieved on Feb. 15, 2021 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK551578/
- Kaur, D., Rasane, P., Singh, J., Kaur, S., Kumar, V., Mahato, D. K., Dey, A., Dhawan, K., & Kumar, S. (2019). Nutritional Interventions for Elderly and Considerations for the Development of Geriatric Foods. Current Aging Science, 12(1), 15–27. Doi: 10.2174/1874609812666190521110548. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6971894/
- Kim, J., Choi, J., Kwon, S. Y., McEvoy, J. W., et al. (2018). Association of Multivitamin and Mineral Supplementation and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Circulation. Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, 11(7), e004224. doi: 10.1161/CIRCOUTCOMES.117.004224. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29991644/
- Paranjpe, M. D., Chin, A. C., Paranjpe, I., Reid, N. J., et al. (2020). Self-reported health without clinically measurable benefits among adult users of multivitamin and multimineral supplements: a cross-sectional study. BMJ Open, 10(11), e039119. Doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2020-039119. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33148746/
- Schwalfenberg, G. K. & Genuis, S. J. (2017). The Importance of Magnesium in Clinical Healthcare. Scientifica, 2017, 4179326. Doi: 10.1155/2017/4179326. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5637834/
- Starr, R. R. (2015). Too little, too late: ineffective regulation of dietary supplements in the United States. American Journal of Public Health, 105(3), 478–485. Doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2014.302348. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4330859/
- Ward, E. (2014). Addressing nutritional gaps with multivitamin and mineral supplements. Nutrition journal, 13, 72. Doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-13-72. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4109789/
Dr. Steve Silvestro is a board-certified pediatrician and Senior Manager, Medical Content & Education at Ro.