AARP sounded on this topic. According to their review of the literature, there are only three dietary supplements with proven value for people over age 50:
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B12
If the body does receive enough calcium, it will start to steal calcium from bones, weakening them. Seniors tend to have risks from falls, and this makes a fall much worse.
According to NIH guidelines, the requirements for persons over age 50 to avoid osteoporosis are as follows:
- 1,200 milligrams (mg) calcium per day for women age 51 and older
- 1,000 mg calcium per day for men age 51 to 70
- 1,200 mg calcium per day for men age 71 and older
According to the National Cancer Institute, most American adults receive less than the recommended amount of calcium each day through diet.(3) The shortfall applies to teens and adults, but the gap appears to widen with age.
Vitamin D assists in the absorption of calcium. The NIH recommendations for this vitamin are
- 15 micrograms (mcg) / 600 international units (IU) per day for adults 19 to 70 years old
- 20 mcg / 800 IU per day for 71-year-olds and older
Vitamin D is best absorbed when taken with a meal or with a snack that contains some fat.
Vitamin D is created by the skin with exposure to sunlight. However, four factors can impede this process:
- Lack of adequate time in the sun (it doesn’t take long, no more than 10 to 20 minutes each day, but that can be difficult with extreme weather)
- Darker complexion
I’ve been a huge fan of B12 ever since I heard Hoda Kotb of the Today Show describe her personal experience in using it. It really helps with energy and focus. The NIH views it as of value for blood and nerve health and in the creation of DNA, with a recommended dose of 2.4 mcg per day.
Certain common drugs can reduce asorption of B12 and create a B12 deficiency. These include:
- Gastric acid inhibitors: omeprazole (Prilosec®), lansoprazole (Prevacid®), cimetidine (Tagamet®), and ranitidine (Zantac®)
- Diabetes drug metformin
There is a potential risk from overdoing either calcium or vitamin D supplements. More isn’t necessarily better, and there is a hard maximum for vitamin D of 100 mcg per day with greater amounts potentially causing organ damage.
There is no known risk with higher amounts of B12 because the body doesn’t store excess amounts.