The 5 best supplements for healthy aging, according to a longevity expert

If you’ve ever walked down the supplement aisle at a drugstore, you’ve seen the overwhelming abundance of options available for your medicine cabinet. According to the Council on Responsible Nutrition Consumer Survey’s 2022 Dietary Supplement Survey, 75% of Americans use dietary supplements, most on a regular basis.

It’s important to remember that supplements are just that: supplements. Although they are useful for giving you a little boost when you are lacking in certain nutrients, the best way to get the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants you need is to eat a healthy, nutritious diet.

“Supplements will never give you what real food will give you,” says Kara Burnstine, RD, nutrition educator at the Pritikin Longevity Center. “They just help you. They are not intended to replace food.

Still, Burnstine acknowledges that there can be downsides to relying solely on food for optimal nutrition, and that there are times when supplements can be a godsend.

“It would be wonderful if we ate all our fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins and got everything we need from the food supply, but unfortunately our food supply is sometimes not the best either. high quality,” she says. . “So we could do a lot of good things without getting all the nutrients from food.”

This deficit can become even more pronounced with age, she says.

“We are machines, so as we get older, things that used to work well start to work less well. This is when we may need to turn more to supplements.

Not all supplements are suitable for everyone. You should always consult your doctor before starting any supplement to ensure that it will not interact with any medications you are taking or expose you to other problems. But for most people approaching or in their golden years, here’s what Burnstine recommends:

Calcium for bone strength

Calcium does a lot for you: it plays an important role in blood clotting, it helps your muscles contract, and it regulates heart rate and normal nerve functions. It also builds and maintains strong bones. When you don’t absorb enough calcium, your body borrows it from your bones to keep it functioning properly. A daily calcium intake helps you replace this calcium and maintain healthy bones.

When you turn 50, your daily calcium needs increase. Before that, 1,200 milligrams per day was enough, but when you hit the half-century mark, it will be time to move up to 1,500 milligrams per day. Postmenopausal women are at the greatest risk of suffering from osteoporosis, a disease that weakens and weakens bones. Lack of calcium increases these chances even more.

Burnstine says that if you know you’re not getting at least two servings of a calcium source each day, a calcium supplement is a good idea. But the supplement is only one piece of the puzzle.

“In addition to the calcium supplement, I will also recommend consuming at least two servings of dairy or eating plenty of green leafy vegetables, and doing resistance training, which protects the bones more than anything else” , she says.

Vitamin D for immunity (and bone strength)

Speaking of healthy bones, your body can only absorb calcium when vitamin D is present. Additionally, vitamin D has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and neuroprotective properties. It supports immune health, muscle function and brain cell activity.

Your body doesn’t produce vitamin D, so you must get it from outside sources. These include food, sun or supplements. Before age 70, your daily requirement is 600 IU. After 70 years, this increases to 800 IU. In your later years, your body may need a boost to achieve these goals.

“As we age, most of us don’t absorb vitamin D as well,” says Burnstine. This may be especially true if you live in an area with little sunlight or if you always wear sunscreen.

Probiotics for gut health

New studies suggest that probiotic supplements – the “good” bacteria that live in your digestive system and help control “bad” bacteria – may help counteract age-related changes in the gut microbiota, improving your health immune and promoting healthy digestion. age.

“We know that if our gut health is good, everything else follows, in terms of inflammation, brain fog, weight loss, sleep, depression,” says Burnstine. “Our instincts are linked to almost everything.”

As with most nutrients, it’s best to get probiotics through the foods you eat. You can stock up on fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, kombucha, refrigerated sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, and miso. But a supplement isn’t a bad idea.

Some supplements contain more than 50 billion CFUs (colony forming units), which may seem like a huge amount, but Burnstine says your body only absorbs 20 to 30 percent of that amount.

“Taking a supplement helps create this diversity and huge population of probiotics in the gut to help us be healthy, lose weight and lower our cholesterol levels,” she says.

Magnesium for mood

Magnesium is linked to immune function, enzymatic reactions and plays a role in reducing inflammation. It is also a key player in stabilizing mood. Magnesium levels decline as you age, putting you at risk for mental health problems.

“People who have low magnesium levels tend to have higher levels of depression,” says Burnstine. Chronically low levels can also increase your risks of high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis.

Anyone over 30 should take 320 to 420 milligrams per day, but Burnstine says not all magnesium supplements are the same.

“For example, you can take a magnesium carbonate, but you can also take something called magnesium glycinate, which is slightly gentler on the stomach,” she says. “The combination of how it’s phrased causes different responses.” Talk to your doctor about the best magnesium formulation for you.

Multivitamins for cover the bases

A daily multivitamin, while not a panacea, can give you an overall nutritional boost. At least, Burnstine says, it won’t hurt.

“I always say a multivitamin is kind of like an insurance policy,” she says. “I would recommend a general multivitamin at any age.”

Most brands are the same, but for peace of mind, look for the USP symbol. This seal of approval marks brands that have consistent quality, the exact ingredients in the potency and quantity you find listed on the label.

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