June 13, 2024

Health Supplements

Health Supplements make us strong and powerful

Supplements aren’t nonsense – here’s why they make a difference after 50

4 min read

When it comes to folic acid, it’s worth knowing that some of us are unable to metabolise it. For this reason, many experts now suggest taking methlytetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF) instead, the most bioeffective form of folate. 

How can you tell supplements are being absorbed?

“It’s possible to have blood tests to track and monitor nutrient levels, but this is expensive so the practical answer is that you often can’t,” says Moore. Some supplements are easy to measure through simple blood tests on the NHS – like vitamin D or iron levels. More often, it’s a case of whether you feel better a few months after taking them. Do you have more energy? Are you sleeping better? Have you noticed improvements in the areas you were hoping to target? Certain supplements, such as vitamin C, can cause diarrhoea when taken excessively. If this happens, cut back or stop taking it.  

The supplements you might need

Experts weigh in with the supplements that you should consider investing in. 

Omega-3 for heart and brain 

“It’s an obvious win,” says Mullan. Omega-3 are unsaturated fats that we need to get from our diet. Human beings evolved largely living on fish – and oily fish are high in omega-3 – but now we’ve switched to a more seed-based diet. “The list of pros for omega-3 is pretty long,” says Mullan. It’s important for brain health, including learning and memory. We need it to build cells throughout the body, it helps regulate blood clotting, contraction and relaxation of artery walls and inflammation, so it helps prevent heart disease and stroke. “There’s plenty of research that shows the benefits of omega-3 throughout life.” 

Vitamin D with K2 for bones and immunity 

“We need vitamin D for a variety of reasons,” says Moore. It regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body so it’s important for our bones, teeth and muscles. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with osteoporosis, falls and fractures in older people. It also plays a role in our immune responses – vitamin D deficiencies have been associated with increased autoimmunity and susceptibility to infection. 

It may also impact mood – with many studies finding that vitamin D supplementation can be effective in reducing depression. We create vitamin D from direct sunlight on the skin, but between October and early March, the UK does not have enough sunlight so supplementation is important. However, many benefit from a supplement all year round. “Older people might not get outside enough, especially those with mobility issues,” says Moore. Many experts now recommend combining vitamin D supplements with K2 as this helps maximise calcium absorption 

B vitamins to beat cognitive decline 

“The B vitamins – such as B6, B12 and folate – are essential for converting food into energy, maintaining healthy skin and supporting neurological function,” says Angelova. B vitamins play an important role in controlling levels of the chemical homocysteine in our blood –  raised levels of homocysteine are commonly linked to age-related cognitive decline and dementia. Many will benefit from this supplement as the capacity to absorb vitamin B12 from food reduces as we get older. Vegetarians and most especially vegans should also supplement as it’s mainly found in meat, eggs and dairy products. 

Magnesium to improve sleep and energy 

Magnesium plays a pivotal role in various bodily functions, including muscle and nerve function, blood sugar regulation, and energy production. Magnesium-rich foods include spinach, avocado, banana and beans, but agronomic and environmental factors have meant that magnesium content in fruit and vegetables has dropped in the last 50 years, and about 80 per cent is lost during food processing. One US study found nearly half the population didn’t ingest enough. 

“Magnesium supplements can really help in later life when we tend to get short of it,” says Moore. “If you’re suffering muscle cramps at night or poor sleep, or if you’re feeling more fatigue, that can be a magnesium deficiency and it’s always a good idea to supplement.” Older people can be particularly susceptible because of diet, multiple drug use and a less efficient digestive system, which leaves them less able to absorb it. 

NMN for youthful vigour 

For flagging energy that comes to us all as the years pass, there’s a relatively new solution on the scene – NMN, the much-lauded star supplement of the anti-ageing movement. Derived from ribose, nicotinamide, nicotinamide riboside and niacin, NMN is a potent precursor for NAD+, a key molecule that gives us our energy. 

“From our mid-20s, our levels of NAD naturally decline. By the time we reach middle age, they’re about 50 per cent of what they were,” says Mullan. Growing research has suggested that boosting NAD+ levels with NMN capsules can improve insulin sensitivity and boost energy production. Though found in foods such as broccoli, cucumber and avocado, you’d need to consume an awful lot – a kilo of broccoli every day – to get the quantity from one daily 500mg capsule. 

“Does a 25-year-old need to take it? No. Would a 49-year-old like me benefit from an NMN supplement to stave off physical and mental fatigue? Absolutely,” says Mullan. However, it’s worth noting that published reports about NMN’s long-term safety in humans are scarce. 

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