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Are supplements the right choice for seniors?

December 7, 2012

Whether it's vitamin D or omega-3, there are a wide variety of nutrients that are important for healthy aging. As more evidence emerges about their benefits, an increasing number of older adults are turning to nutritional supplements to get the proper amount of vitamins, but should they? Some experts say the answer isn't always yes, according to WebMD.

Donald B. McCormick, a professor of biochemistry at Emory University, says that most seniors are able to get their nutritional needs through dietary choices rather than supplements. In fact, he recently published an analysis of a dozen studies and found that supplement use is often not necessary and could cause harm in some cases. Not only that, but he suggests that seniors who have a good diet likely have no need for supplements.

"If you are still eating fairly well, you are getting more micronutrients than you probably really need to function as well as you can," he told the website.

McCormick does concede that there are some instances where supplements are a good option. Specifically, seniors who may have trouble cooking or eating are good candidates. However, he maintains that natural sources of vitamins should always be the first choice.

The recommendation raises the question of what the smartest food choices for seniors are. According to the National Institute on Aging, older adults should make a point to purchase fat-free dairy products such as 1 percent milk and fat-free yogurt to provide them with good sources of calcium. Additionally, a diet rich in vegetables - especially broccoli, spinach and tomatoes - can help older adults get the nutrients they need without supplements.