Wellness

The Best Supplements To Take At Every Age

Photo: Getty Images

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to the supplements our bodies and brains require, but your age and lifestyle can help to inform which vitamins and minerals are worth adding to your diet—and when. I recently left a stressful job to go freelance, started exercising more outside, and hit my mid-40s. As a qualified personal trainer and nutritional coach, I knew these life changes meant that my supplement needs have changed, too. I’ve stuck with my daily multivitamin and curcumin to help with increased activity that may cause joint inflammation while upping my protein for muscle repair. I’ve added vitamins C and A to combat aging skin and reduced my vitamin D intake because I’m spending more time outside in the sun.

If you’re looking for tailored advice, it’s always best to speak to a nutritionist or dietician, but there are vitamins and minerals, foods, and other supplements that can be generally beneficial at certain life stages.

In your 20s and early 30s

“At this age, a high-quality diet is the starting point. If you’re able to do that, then the actual need for supplementation is very limited—apart from maybe vitamin D3 and omega-3, which we often lack,” says nutritionist Jules Strauss. “Vitamin D is needed to promote calcium absorption, so it’s heavily linked to bone health. We get vitamin D from the sun, so it’s less important in the summer, but in the darker months it’s worth supplementing because our body can’t create it.”

Similarly, the body can’t make omega-3, “which is important for brain health, for the nervous system, heart health, and implicated in recovery from exercise as well”, says Strauss, who notes that it can also help to relieve stress and combat depression. “Oily fish is a great source, but ideally, we want to be having a couple of portions of oily fish a week. A lot of people don’t do that, so supplementing is a good idea—seaweed or algae-based vegan options are also available.”

We all age differently, so it’s not an absolute factor in determining individual micronutrient needs, but diet and lifestyle factors are good indicators. For example, this age group is more likely to consider a plant-based diet. If this is you, be sure to “top up with vitamin B12, iodine, vitamin D, iron, and zinc which are all harder to get from plant foods”, says Dr Carrie Ruxton, a dietitian at the Health and Food Supplements Information Service. “Vitamin B12 is only present in animal foods or those made from microorganisms like yeast.”

Studies show this age group is also the one that tends to exercise the most, which can stress muscles, so in addition to increasing your protein, add “B vitamins to help release energy from foods, anti-inflammatory vitamins C and E, and magnesium for muscle function”, says Dr Ruxton. “Women taking part in high-intensity exercise can also benefit from an iron supplement,” she adds, to combat iron lost through sweat, as well as through periods, which “can result in iron losses which aren’t always made up from the diet. Low iron levels, experienced by up to a third of women, can lead to fatigue and breathlessness.” If you are sweating heavily or maybe training in hot weather, you might want to consider an electrolyte supplement containing sodium and potassium, to replace salts you lose through sweat.

The average age of mothers giving birth in England and Wales is around 30, so this might be a good place to mention supplementing if you’re planning a pregnancy. “According to government data, nine in 10 women of childbearing age in the UK have low blood folate levels, putting their babies at risk of neural tube disorders such as spina bifida,” explains Dr Ruxton. “The NHS advises all women planning a pregnancy to take a daily supplement of 400 micrograms folic acid—the synthetic version which is better absorbed. Other nutrients to take in the pre-conceptual stage include vitamin D for bone health and immune function (take 10 to 25 micrograms daily), and fish oils, as these have been shown in studies to reduce the chances of children being allergic and may be linked to higher IQ in babies.”

In your 30s and early 40s

This could be the point at which you start thinking about changes to the health of your hair, nails, and skin. “The key supplement to consider would be collagen, a protein that’s found in connective tissue, as well as skin and nails: it supports skin hydration and skin elasticity, all things that naturally decline as we age,” explains Strauss, “while vitamin C can contribute to the glow of the skin.” Other micronutrients to consider for skin health are the antioxidant selenium, to combat cell damage, B vitamins for skin structure, vitamin A for lubrication, and zinc can help tackle inflammation as well as support healthy hair. “The B vitamins, including biotin, vitamin B6, and B12, are also important for hair structure,” adds Dr Ruxton. “Eat more high-quality lean protein foods, such as eggs, turkey, fish, venison, and pork, or take a B complex supplement.”

Heavy socializing can also start taking more of a toll at this age. “Alcohol, in particular, stimulates chronic inflammation and saps nutrients from the body. To offset some of the negative effects, take a daily multivitamin and multi-mineral supplement—vitamins C, E, and selenium act as antioxidants to protect our cells from damage,” explains Dr Ruxton. Gut health can also suffer as a result of a party lifestyle. “Dysbiota—the name for an unbalanced gut microbiota—can influence stress levels and mood, as well as digestive comfort. Aim to feed those friendly gut bugs with plenty of fiber-rich foods, such as beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains, or consider taking a probiotic supplement.”

Another consideration for some women during this life stage is the hormonal changes that come with perimenopause or even menopause. Again, vitamin B can play a role here, “especially B6 and folate, are important for women around the menstrual cycle, as well as in the lead up to the menopause”, says Dr Ruxton. “I would recommend experimenting with different supplements, including botanical supplements with red clover, magnesium, and B6, to see what helps you. Studies show that women who supplement with B complex report fewer mood swings and have less risk of depression. Magnesium is also a key nutrient for balancing mood.”

Stress and anxiety more generally can straddle all ages. Omega-3 again can help, or try ashwagandha, which comes in a variety of supplement forms. “It has been shown fairly robustly that it can help reduce feelings of stress, and some studies have shown it to actually reduce levels of the stress hormone and cortisol,” says Strauss.

In your 40s and 50s

A key factor for this age group is the natural decline of muscle mass. Increasing protein and strength training is absolutely key, but micronutrients such as vitamins B12, C, and D can also help. “People as they age will typically say ‘my metabolism is slowing down’—what they’re alluding to is the decrease in muscle mass and therefore a decrease in metabolic capacity,” explains Strauss. “There’s been research into how micronutrients known as polyphenols can promote fat burning and metabolic health, support recovery and reduce muscle soreness.”

This age group will also continue to see hormonal changes. According to Strauss, it’s at this life stage that individuals’ needs tend to vary more widely, due to fluctuations in levels of sex hormones as women’s menstrual cycles become more irregular, for example. “One thing that a lot of women report is developing food intolerances and aversions,” says Dr Strauss. “In terms of supplementing, I think maintaining gut health is really important, so eat a varied, colorful diet and include some probiotic foods like live yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, or kombucha. There are also a number of probiotic and prebiotic supplements on the market.”

Over 50

Areas of focus at this life stage are bones, heart health, and cognitive function. “People aged over 50 tend to eat healthier diets but their bodies are absorbing less, particularly vitamin B12, calcium, and vitamin D. So, nutrient needs can be higher,” explains Dr Ruxton. “A good age-appropriate multivitamin with minerals can be a simple way to top up on nutrients in general. For specific supplements, look for those that target bone health, such as calcium, magnesium, and high-dose vitamin D to protect bone density and prevent fractures. For heart health, take omega-3s, B vitamins, and potassium, and for cognitive function; folic acid, vitamin B6, magnesium, and polyphenols.”

As we age, our cells naturally accrue damage through oxidative stress, which causes inflammation. “Omega-3 fats are helpful for joint discomfort and swelling as they are anti-inflammatory,” says Dr Ruxton, who also suggests trying joint health supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin. Strauss adds curcumin and turmeric to the list of anti-inflammatory supplements, before stressing that “protein need increases even further in the 50-plus age group to avoid or minimize decline in muscle mass, and to be able to process our glucose in the same way as before”.

Sleep patterns can also be disturbed at this age. “People have more difficulty sleeping as they get older or certainly staying asleep—try a supplement of tryptophan (5-HT), which helps to maintain serotonin levels,” says Dr Ruxton, while Strauss concludes: “Tart cherry juice can help improve and promote sleep, as well as magnesium.”

This article was originally published on Vogue.com

More From Vogue

Share now on:
FacebookXEmailCopy Link