As we get older we change physically as well as physiologically, and we need to support our bodies more than ever by making life style choices that make sure we get enough rest, exercise and eat a balanced diet. But in many cases we may fall short of our goals due to outside influences that demand our attention and time. This could be a stressful and busy job, family commitments, financial difficulties or physical or mental illness.
Age-related issues can crop up unexpectedly and may include skin issues, joint discomfort and stiffness, cognitive issues, decreased energy levels, hormonal decline, reduced endurance, feeling blue and moody, loss of muscle tone, slowed metabolism, and weight gain.
Wow, talk about a gloomy introduction! It’s not all bad news, though. We can be much more optimistic about healthy aging, especially considering the growing amount of research every year. Various lifestyle factors are well within our control that can help protect our youth and vitality, including optimal nutrition, properly planned exercise programming, stress management, sleep hygiene, social support, and more.
In addition, research in the area of dietary supplements and healthy living continues to expand. Now more than ever, we have a good idea of what ingredients are most effective for promoting healthy aging.
Think of vitamins and nutrients as an army that will fight off age-related ailments. And the best way to build this army is by eating a healthy, well-rounded diet. While it’s always important to eat well, it becomes especially essential around age 40 because that’s when the rules start to change.
But if you are not getting enough of these essential vitamins and minerals you should consider taking supplements to ensure your body is getting enough of the right nutrients in the right dosages to combat age-related issues. I have listed 15 of the best supplements to combat the effects of aging, how they effect your body, which foods you should eat to get them and how much you should take for the best results.
About Life Extension
With all of the supplement brands out there — some good, some not so good — how can you be absolutely certain you’re making the best choice?
The answer is simple: always choose Life Extension®.
Just like with the foods you eat, the quality, purity, and potency of the ingredients that go into your nutritional supplements really do matter. That’s why at Life Extension, we’ve been committed to sourcing the highest quality raw materials, and creating the best supplements money can buy, since 1980.
Today, we make over 350 vitamins and nutritional supplements that set the gold standard for supporting weight loss, heart, brain, bone, joint, eye, skin, sexual health, and so much more. And we base these formulas on the latest scientific research, making sure that our supplements offer those same ingredients at the same clinically validated dosages.
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The bottom line? Life Extension is the nutritional supplement brand you can trust with your health.
15 Supplements to Support People Over 40
1. Protein Supplement
Arguably one of the greatest challenges we face as we get older is the progressive, seemingly inevitable age-related loss in muscle mass. After the age of 30, adults lose an estimated 6 – 8% of their muscle mass per decade. Over time, it contributes to decreased strength, balance, mobility, and physical function, as well as increased body fat.
Certainly, a sedentary lifestyle plays a substantial role (i.e., “use it or lose it”). And without a doubt, resistance training (i.e., lifting weights) is important to stave off losses in muscle mass. As is consuming enough protein.
As we age we have a reduced sensitivity to the effects of dietary protein. In other words, more protein is needed to help build and maintain muscle mass. In fact, it may take up to 67% more protein per meal for older adults to stimulate muscle protein synthesis (the process of repairing and building muscle) to a comparable level as young adults.
How much Protein should you have
A good recommendation is to consume about 1.5 – 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram (kg) per day with at least 0.4 grams of protein per kg per meal.
A protein supplement is highly recommended. While there are many good choices, a high-quality milk-based protein (e.g., whey) may be optimal because of its amino acid profile (namely, its leucine content).
2. Digestive Support
Mounting evidence suggests probiotics play a role in keeping the gut healthy and weight down, and even in lowering risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke—all of which is especially important around 40 when muscle mass starts to decrease, making it easier to put on weight and develop insulin resistance.
There are many signs that your digestive system isn’t as effective as it once was like gas, bloating, digestive discomfort, or occasional constipation/diarrhea. As we get older, we produce fewer digestive enzymes, which are responsible for breaking down the food we eat into usable nutrients that our bodies can absorb. In fact, Dr. Edward Howell, a noted pioneer in the field of enzyme research, coined the Enzyme Nutrition Axiom. This basically states that age is inversely correlated with enzyme production. And as we get older, the organs responsible for producing digestive enzymes become less efficient.
Certainly, managing stress eating more raw, whole, enzyme-rich plant-based foods can support healthy digestion. A broad-spectrum digestive enzyme supplement that contains a variety of enzymes that breakdown proteins (called proteases), fats (called lipases), and carbohydrates, including difficult-to-digest fibers and FODMAPs.
While there are numerous factors that influence the balance of gut bacteria, studies show that, as we age, there’s an unhealthy shift in the microbiota called dysbiosis. This refers to an unhealthy imbalance of bacteria in the gut flora, characterized by excessive levels of pathogenic bacteria, inadequate amounts of commensal and probiotic bacteria, and/or reduced bacterial diversity.
Supplementation with probiotics and prebiotics, which have together been described as the “fountain of life” may be very helpful in preventing the disruption of the gut environment.
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When it comes to healthy aging, one of the most important, effective tools in the supplement toolbox is the long-chain omega-3 fats EPA and DHA, which are well-known for their beneficial effects on:
- Heart health
- Brain health, cognitive function, and mood
- Eye health and vision
- Skin health
- Immune function
- Metabolic function and body composition
- Promoting a healthy inflammatory response
Technically not a vitamin, omega-3 fatty acids still deserve a place on this list because of their myriad health benefits, especially because they help counteract some of the negative changes that come with aging, like increased heart disease risk and cognitive decline. Research has shown that omega-3s help lower blood pressure and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, reduce the risk of heart disease, and play a role in keeping memory and thinking sharp.
In fact, a recent study found that people with higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood had larger brains and performed better on memory tests, planning activities, and abstract thinking, compared with individuals with lower levels—which suggests that omega-3 fatty acids play a role in maintaining brain health in addition to the other known benefits, says the study’s lead author, Zaldy S. Tan, MD, MPH, medical director of the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Program at UCLA.
Increasing the intake of omega-3 fats (through supplementation and eating fatty fish) while reducing intake of processed foods (which contain refined omega-6-rich vegetable/seed oils) may have a positive impact on cellular aging.
Though you can get omega-3s from foods like fish, walnuts, flaxseeds, and leafy vegetables, taking a supplement is a good way to make sure you’re getting enough. Either way, aim for 500 mg if you’re healthy, 800 to 1,000 mg if you have heart disease, and 2,000 to 4,000 mg if you have high triglyceride levels. And be sure to ask your doctor about the right dose if you’re taking anticoagulant drugs, which can have serious side effects.
Research has shown that diets rich in the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA can slow down the aging process. There some evidence that shows supplementation with EPA and DHA increases the activity of telomerase, an enzyme that maintains, lengthens, and restores telomeres.
4. Vitamin A
- helping your body’s natural defence against illness and infection (the immune system) work properly
- helping vision in dim light
- keeping skin and the lining of some parts of the body, such as the nose, healthy
- oily fish
- fortified low-fat spreads
- milk and yoghurt
- liver and liver products such as liver pâté – this is a particularly rich source of vitamin A, so you may be at risk of having too much vitamin A if you have it more than once a week (this is particularly important if you’re pregnant)
You can get vitamin A by including good sources of beta-carotene in your diet, as the body can change this into vitamin A.
The main food sources of beta-carotene are:
- yellow, red and green (leafy) vegetables, such as spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes and red peppers
- yellow fruit, such as mango, papaya and apricots
- 0.7mg a day for men
- 0.6mg a day for women
According to some research, having more than an average of 1.5mg a day of vitamin A over many years may affect your bones, making them more likely to fracture when you’re older.
5. B vitamins and folic acid
- thiamin (vitamin B1)
- riboflavin (vitamin B2)
- niacin (vitamin B3)
- pantothenic acid
- vitamin B6
- biotin (vitamin B7)
- folic acid (folate)
- vitamin B12
- break down and release energy from food
- keep the nervous system healthy
Good sources of Thiamin
Thiamin is found in many types of food.
Good sources include:
- fresh and dried fruit
- wholegrain breads
- some fortified breakfast cereals
How much thiamin do I need?
The amount of thiamin adults (19-64 years) need is:
- 1mg a day for men
- 0.8mg a day for women
Taking 100mg or less a day of thiamin supplements is unlikely to cause any harm.
Riboflavin (vitamin B2)
- keep skin, eyes and the nervous system healthy
- the body release energy from food
Good sources of Riboflavin
Good sources of riboflavin include:
- fortified breakfast cereals
UV light can destroy riboflavin, so ideally these foods should be kept out of direct sunlight.
How much Riboflavin do I need?
The amount of riboflavin adults (19-64 years) need is about:
- 1.3mg a day for men
- 1.1mg a day for women
Taking 40mg or less a day of riboflavin supplements is unlikely to cause any harm.
Niacin (vitamin B3)
- release energy from the foods we eat
- keep the nervous system and skin healthy
Good sources of Niacin
There are two forms of niacin – nicotinic acid and nicotinamide – both of which are found in food.
Good sources of niacin include:
- wheat flour
How much niacin do I need?
The amount of niacin you need is about:
- 16.5mg a day for men
- 13.2mg a day for women
Taking high doses of nicotinic acid supplements can cause skin flushes. Taking high doses for a long time could lead to liver damage.
Taking 17mg or less of nicotinic acid supplements a day or 500mg or less of nicotinamide supplements a day is unlikely to cause any harm.
Good sources of Pantothenic Acid
- wholegrains – such as brown rice and wholemeal bread
Breakfast cereals are also a good source if they have been fortified with pantothenic acid.
You should be able to get all the pantothenic acid you need by eating a varied and balanced diet. If you take supplements, don’t take too much as this might be harmful.
Taking 200mg or less a day of pantothenic acid in supplements is unlikely to cause any harm.
- allow the body to use and store energy from protein and carbohydrates in food
- form haemoglobin – the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen around the body
Good sources of Viamin B6
Vitamin B6 is found in a wide variety of foods, including:
- poultry – such as chicken or turkey
- wholegrain cereals – such as oatmeal, wheatgerm and brown rice
- soya beans
- some fortified breakfast cereals
How much Vitamin B6 do I need?
The amount of vitamin B6 adults (19-64 years) need is about:
- 1.4mg a day for men
- 1.2mg a day for women
When taking a supplement, it’s important not to take too much. Taking more than 200mg a day of vitamin B6 for a long time can lead to a loss of feeling in the arms and legs known as peripheral neuropathy.
This will usually improve once you stop taking the supplements. But in a few cases when people have taken large amounts of vitamin B6 – particularly for more than a few months – the effect can be permanent.
Don’t take more than 10mg of vitamin B6 a day in supplements unless advised to by a doctor.
Biotin (vitamin B7)
- the body form healthy red blood cells
- reduce the risk of central neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, in unborn babies
A lack of folic acid could lead to folate deficiency anaemia.
Good sources of Folic Acid
Good sources include:
- brussels sprouts
- liver (but avoid this during pregnancy)
- fortified breakfast cereals
How much Folic Acid do I need?
Adults need 200mcg of folic acid a day. It can’t be stored in the body, so you need it in your diet every day.
Most people should be able to get the amount they need by eating a varied and balanced diet.
Taking doses of folic acid higher than 1mg can cover up the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, which can eventually damage the nervous system if it’s not spotted and treated.
This is particularly a concern for older people because it becomes more difficult to absorb vitamin B12 as you get older.
Taking 1mg or less a day of folic acid supplements is unlikely to cause any harm.
Vitamin B12 is involved in:
- making red blood cells and keeping the nervous system healthy
- releasing energy from food
- using folic acid
A lack of vitamin B12 could lead to vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia.
Good sources of Vitamin B12
- some fortified breakfast cereals
How much Vitamin B12 do I need?
Adults (19-64 years) need about 1.5mcg a day of vitamin B12.
But as vitamin B12 isn’t found naturally in foods such as fruit, vegetables and grains, vegans may not get enough of it.
Read about the vegan diet for nutrition information and advice.
Taking 2mg or less a day of vitamin B12 in supplements is unlikely to cause any harm.
6. Vitamin C
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, has several important functions.
- helping to protect cells and keeps them healthy
- maintaining healthy skin, blood vessels, bones and cartilage
- helping with wound healing
Lack of vitamin C can lead to scurvy. Mild deficiencies may occur in infants given unsupplemented cows’ milk and in people with poor or very restricted diets.
Good sources of vitamin C
Vitamin C is found in a wide variety of fruit and vegetables. Good sources include:
- oranges and orange juice
- red and green peppers
- brussel sprouts
How much vitamin C do I need?
Adults (19-64 years) need 40mg of vitamin C a day.
Vitamin C can’t be stored in the body, so you need it in your diet every day.
Taking large amounts (more than 1,000mg per day) of vitamin C can cause:
- stomach pain
These symptoms should disappear once you stop taking vitamin C supplements.
Taking less than 1,000mg of vitamin C supplements a day is unlikely to cause any harm.
7. Vitamin D
Vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body.
- These nutrients are needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy.
A lack of vitamin D can lead to bone deformities such as rickets in children, and bone pain caused by a condition called osteomalacia in adults.
Good sources of vitamin D
From about late March/early April to the end of September, most people should be able to get all the vitamin D they need from sunlight. The body creates vitamin D from direct sunlight on the skin when outdoors.
But between October and early March we don’t get enough vitamin D from sunlight.
Vitamin D is also found in a small number of foods.
- oily fish – such as salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel and fresh tuna
- red meat
- egg yolks
- fortified foods – such as most fat spreads and some breakfast cereals
Another source of vitamin D is dietary supplements.
In the UK, cows’ milk is generally not a good source of vitamin D because it isn’t fortified, as it is in some other countries.
How much Vitamin D do I need?
Vitiman D is very important, especially after 40, because it helps protect against the age-related changes that start to kick in. Deficiencies in vitamin D have been linked to diabetes, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, and breast and colorectal cancers—all of which are more likely to crop up the older you get. Plus, Vitamin D is essential for absorption of calcium in the body.
But since it’s difficult for people to get enough vitamin D from food alone, everyone should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10mcg of vitamin D during the autumn and winter.
Between late March/early April to the end of September, most people can get all the vitamin D they need through sunlight on their skin and from a balanced diet. You may choose not to take a vitamin D supplement during these months.
The Department of Health recommends that you take a daily supplement containing 10mcg of vitamin D throughout the year if you:
- aren’t often outdoors – for example, if you’re frail or housebound
- are in an institution like a care home
- usually wear clothes that cover up most of your skin when outdoors
People with dark skin from African, African-Caribbean and south Asian backgrounds may also not get enough vitamin D from sunlight. They should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10mcg of vitamin D throughout the year.
Taking too many vitamin D supplements over a long period of time can cause too much calcium to build up in the body (hypercalcaemia). This can weaken the bones and damage the kidneys and the heart.
If you choose to take vitamin D supplements, 10mcg a day will be enough for most people.
Some people have medical conditions that mean they may not be able to safely take as much. If in doubt, you should consult your doctor.
If your doctor has recommended you take a different amount of vitamin D, you should follow their advice.
Your body doesn’t make too much vitamin D from sun exposure, but always remember to cover up or protect your skin if you’re out in the sun for long periods to reduce the risk of skin damage and skin cancer.
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8. Vitamin E
Vitamin E helps maintain healthy skin and eyes, and strengthen the body’s natural defence against illness and infection (the immune system).
Good sources of vitamin E include:
- plant oils – such as soya, corn and olive oil
- nuts and seeds
- wheatgerm – found in cereals and cereal products
How much vitamin E do I need?
- 4mg a day for men
- 3mg a day for women
You should be able to get the amount of vitamin E you need by eating a varied and balanced diet. If you take vitamin E supplements, don’t take too much as this could be harmful.
Taking 540mg or less a day of vitamin E supplements is unlikely to cause any harm.
9. Vitamin K
Vitamin K is needed for blood clotting, which means it helps wounds heal properly.
There’s also some evidence vitamin K may help keep bones healthy.
Good sources of vitamin K
Vitamin K is found in:
- green leafy vegetables – such as broccoli and spinach
- vegetable oils
- cereal grains
Small amounts can also be found in meat and dairy foods.
How much vitamin K do I need?
Adults need approximately 1mcg a day of vitamin K for each kilogram of their body weight.
For example, someone who weighs 65kg would need 65mcg a day of vitamin K, while a person who weighs 75kg would need 75mcg a day.
Taking 1mg or less of vitamin K supplements a day is unlikely to cause any harm.
Calcium has several important functions.
- helping build strong bones and teeth
- regulating muscle contractions, including heartbeat
- making sure blood clots normally
A lack of calcium could lead to a condition called osteomalacia or osteoporosis in later life.
Sources of calcium include:
- milk, cheese and other dairy foods
- green leafy vegetables – such as broccoli, cabbage and okra, but not spinach
- soya beans
- soya drinks with added calcium
- bread and anything made with fortified flour
- fish where you eat the bones – such as sardines and pilchards
How much calcium do I need?
Adults (19-64 years) need 700mg of calcium a day.
It’s hard to know what to think about calcium: A recent analysis of 59 studies designed to measure the role it plays in preventing fractures for men and women older than 50 found that increasing calcium intake—either from foods or supplements—was not likely to significantly reduce fracture risk. And other research has linked calcium supplements to increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and cardiac death for postmenopausal women.
But even though our bones absorb most of the calcium they need earlier in life (typically before age 30), the nutrient does play a role in maintaining bone health later in life. The nutrient is needed for other basic body functions like muscle contraction, nerve and heart functioning, and other biochemical reactions—and if you’re not getting enough calcium from your diet, the body steals calcium from your bones (and weakens them).
A key function of magnesium is to help regulate blood pressure, which is especially important for women 40-plus, who are already at risk of high blood pressure due to normal aging. Deficiencies in magnesium have been linked to heart disease, diabetes, and inflammation. Plus, it helps the body absorb calcium and plays a role in muscle, nerve, and heart function, as well as blood glucose control.
Magnesium is a mineral that helps:
- turn the food we eat into energy
- make sure the parathyroid glands, which produce hormones important for bone health, work normally
- Good sources of magnesium
Magnesium is found in a wide variety of foods, including:
- green leafy vegetables – such as spinach
- brown rice
- bread (especially wholegrain)
- dairy foods
How much magnesium do I need?
300mg a day for men (19-64 years)
270mg a day for women (19-64 years)
Taking high doses of magnesium (more than 400mg) for a short time can cause diarrhoea.
Manganese helps make and activate some of the enzymes in the body. Enzymes are proteins that help the body carry out chemical reactions, such as breaking down food.
Manganese is found in a variety of foods, including:
- tea – probably the biggest source of manganese for many people
- green vegetables – such as peas and runner beans
How much manganese do I need?
You should be able to get all the manganese you need by eating a varied and balanced diet. If you take manganese supplements, don’t take too much as this could be harmful.
For most people, taking 4mg or less of manganese supplements a day is unlikely to cause any harm.
For older people, who may be more sensitive to manganese, taking 0.5mg or less of manganese supplements a day is unlikely to cause any harm.
Potassium plays a key role in keeping blood pressure in check, no matter your age. In postmenopausal women, research has linked higher intake of potassium from food to decreased risk of stroke—though “high” intake was considered approximately 3.1 g, which is still lower than the recommended 4.7 g per day. And the benefits were seen in those getting as little as 2 g per day, says study author Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller, PhD, a professor in the department of epidemiology and population health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
Iron is important in making red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body.
A lack of iron can lead to iron deficiency anaemia.
Good sources of iron include:
- Liver (but avoid this during pregnancy)
- dried fruit – such as dried apricots
- wholegrains – such as brown rice
- fortified breakfast cereals
- soybean flour
- most dark-green leafy vegetables – such as watercress and curly kale
How much iron do I need?
8.7mg a day for men over 18
14.8mg a day for women aged 19-50 years
8.7mg a day for women over 50
Side effects of taking high doses (over 20mg) of iron include:
- feeling sick
- stomach pain
Very high doses of iron can be fatal, particularly if taken by children, so always keep iron supplements out of the reach of children.
Taking 17mg or less a day of iron supplements is unlikely to cause any harm. But continue taking a higher dose if advised to by your GP.
15. Healthy Aging Support
Of course, this list wouldn’t be complete without covering the broad category of healthy aging (i.e., anti-aging) supplements. While there are many products touted for their potential youth-preserving benefits, here are a handful of research-backed ingredients that sit at the top of the list:
- Curcumin— Our first heavy hitter is curcumin. Curcumin is a potent antioxidant derived from the popular Indian spice turmeric—an exotic, bright yellow plant from the ginger family that has been used for thousands of years for medicinal purposes. Its effectiveness has been highlighted in over 3,000 scientific publications dealing with turmeric in just the last 25 years alone. Curcumin has been shown to protect against the harmful effects of aging by scavenging free radicals, lowering oxidative stress, and reducing levels of several key biomarkers associated with aging and inflammation.
- Glutathione— Glutathione is the body’s “master antioxidant,” boosting the body’s natural defenses against stress and dangerous toxins. While the body naturally produces glutathione, the unfortunate reality is that levels plummet with age. Over 100,000 peer-reviewed scientific articles have addressed this powerhouse antioxidant, and researchers are recognizing that a frightening number of people are deficient, which weakens the immune system; exposes you to excessive oxidative stress; leaves you susceptible to dangerous toxins, stress, and illness; and impairs detoxification.
- CoQ10— CoQ10 is a powerful antioxidant and critical component of healthy mitochondria (the “power plants” of cells), which are responsible for producing 95% of the body’s energy. The more effective and efficient your mitochondria, the healthier, more vibrant you’ll feel. The body’s levels of CoQ10 can be cut in half with age, making supplementation important for mitochondrial health, a key component of healthy aging.