Quick Health Scoop
- As you age, your nutritional needs change.
- For women, the hormonal changes of menopause bring on additional challenges.
- Women over 50 need key vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, including calcium, vitamin D, vitaminB12, Omega-3s, magnesium, and potassium.
- Aging can make it more difficult to get certain nutrients through diet alone.
If you’re a woman over 50, do you really need to take additional vitamins and minerals daily? Ideally, if you follow a balanced diet, you’re getting most all the nutrients your body needs from fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy. However, it can be hard to consistently make the right choices. And, as you get older, you require fewer calories (but still need all the nutrients), so you need nutrient-dense foods.1 To complicate matters, as you age, your body experiences changes that might make it more difficult to get certain nutrients. The result? Despite your best efforts, you may not be getting enough of key vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients your body needs. To make sure you cover all the bases relevant to women’s health, consider adding certain supplements to your routine.
What Vitamins, Minerals, and Supplements Do Women Over 50 Need?
While you might still feel like you’re 20, your body has changed over the years. Along the way, your nutritional needs have changed, too. In fact, mature women (loosely defined as women over 50) face a variety of potential nutrient deficiencies and health challenges.1 In particular, women over 50 are more prone to be deficient of these key vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.
- Calcium. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for women 51 and over is 1,200 mg/day of calcium.2 If you don’t get at least 3 servings of low-fat dairy per day, consider adding a calcium supplement to your daily routine.
- Vitamin D. The RDA for adults is 15 to 20 mcg (600 - 800 IU) of vitamin D daily to support bone health.2 The Endocrine Society has also released clinical guidelines that are routinely used by health care practitioners who are working with patients to raise their blood levels of vitamin D. These guidelines recommend 37.5 - 50 mcg (1500 - 2000 IU) vitamin D daily for adults to support consistent blood levels of vitamin D and help those with inadequate vitamin D intake meet their daily nutrient needs.3
To determine how much vitamin D you should supplement, your doctor or healthcare provider can perform a simple blood test (serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D) to check your blood vitamin D level. To correct deficiency, the Endocrine Society recommends 150 mcg (6000 IU) vitamin D daily for 8 weeks.3 However, we recommend that you talk to your doctor to determine the appropriate supplement amount that is right for you.
- Vitamin B12.2 The RDA for women 51 years and older is 2.4 mg/day of vitamin B12.4 Vitamin B12 is only present in foods of animal origin, and good food sources include seafood, beef, and turkey.
- Omega-3s. The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are found in large amounts in fatty fish like salmon, halibut and sardines. Experts recommend consuming at least two servings of fatty fish per week for general health, which equals 200-500 mg EPA and DHA/day. For those with heart health concerns or interest in supporting mood health, experts recommend 1,000-2000 mg of EPA and DHA/day.9,10 If you don’t regularly eat seafood, consider adding an omega-3 supplement to your daily routine.
- Magnesium. The RDA for women 51 years and older is 320 mg/day of magnesium.5 Good food sources of magnesium include green leafy vegetables, whole grains, and nuts.
Potassium. The adequate intake (AI) for women ages 51 and older is 2,600 mg/day potassium.6 Good food sources of potassium include dried apricots, raisins, bananas, and spinach.
Read More: Vitamins for Men Over 50
How Can Certain Vitamins, Minerals and Other Nutrients Help Women Over 50?
While both men and women experience many changes as they age, women in particular, face special challenges. Why? Thanks to the hormonal changes caused by menopause, older women experience decreased levels of estrogen, putting them at an elevated risk for a variety of health conditions. Here’s how specific vitamins, minerals and other nutrients may support a healthy woman over 50:
- Calcium. Before menopause, your ovaries produced much of your body’s estrogen, which helps your body absorb calcium in the GI tract. But after menopause, your ovaries have stopped producing this hormone. The result? You face a higher risk of bone loss if you are not on hormone replacement therapy. Calcium is an essential mineral that helps support bone strength. † A meta-analysis from the National Osteoporosis Foundation found a 15% reduction in risk of total fracture and a 30% reduction in risk of hip fractures (six studies) with calcium and vitamin D supplementation in older people.7
- Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps build and maintain strong bones by enhancing calcium absorption, supports teeth, muscle and immune health.†
- Vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is one of the essential B vitamins that helps make red blood cells, helps convert the food you eat into cellular energy, and is required for proper nerve function.† Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include tingling and numbness of the hands and feet, nerve damage, and memory loss.4 Older adults have reduced vitamin B12 absorption in the GI tract and a higher risk of B12 deficiency, therefore, adults over 50 should add a vitamin B12 supplement to their routine.
- Omega-3s. The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA help support a healthy heart.† In fact, DHA is one of the most abundant fats in your brain and eyes.
- Magnesium. Older people are more likely to consume an insufficient amount of magnesium through food alone. This essential mineral assists in muscle relaxation, supports heart, nerve & bone health, and helps produce energy from the foods you eat. †
- Potassium. Potassium is an essential electrolyte and helps support heart function as well as nerve and muscle function.†
Why Do Women Over 50 Need Specially Formulated Vitamins?
Since you want to feel your best at every age, you want to look for the right supplement matched to the right season of your life. For instance, daily women’s multivitamins are geared for teens and women of child-bearing years, often containing a higher dosage of iron to replace the amount lost during monthly menstruation. And prenatal and postnatal multivitamins are designed to provide the essential nutrients that both mom and her growing baby needs. Likewise, vitamins for women over 50 are specifically formulated for the unique nutritional needs of more mature women.
The Bottom Line
Depending on your individual needs, you might benefit from a multivitamin for women over 50 to ensure you’re hitting your daily target for a broad range of vital nutrients. Or, you might be getting enough of certain nutrients (like calcium and iron) from your diet, but you need help with others (such as vitamin D and omega-3s). If you’re unsure what nutrients you need as an older adult, talk to your healthcare professional.
This information is only for educational purposes and is not medical advice. Consult your health care provider for more information.
† These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
1 National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. “Health Tips for Older Adults.” 2019. Accessed on: September 3, 2020. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/weight-management/healthy-eating-physical-activity-for-life/health-tips-for-older-adults#eatingOlder
2 Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D. Washington, D.C.; 2011
3 Holick MF, Binkley NC, Bischoff-Ferrari HA, et al. Evaluation, treatment, and prevention of vitamin D deficiency: an Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline. J Clin Endocrinol & Metab. 2011;96(7):1911-1930.
4 Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine. Vitamin B12. Dietary Reference Intakes for Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press; 1998:306-356.
5 Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine. Magnesium. Dietary Reference Intakes: Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Vitamin D, and Fluoride. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press; 1997:190-249.
6 Food and Nutrition Board, National Academy of Medicine. Potassium: Dietary Reference Intakes based on chronic disease. Dietary Reference Intakes for Sodium and Potassium - uncorrected proofs. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press; 2019:121-154.
7 Weaver CM, Alexander DD, Boushey CJ, et al. Calcium plus vitamin D supplementation and risk of fractures: an updated meta-analysis from the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Osteoporos Int. 2016;27(1):367-376.
8 Saneei P, Salehi-Abargouei A, Esmaillzadeh A, Azadbakht L. Influence of Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet on blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis on randomized controlled trials. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2014;24(12):1253-1261
9 American Heart Association. Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/fish-and-omega-3-fatty-acids.
10 International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids (ISSFAL). Recommendations for intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids in healthy adults. Available at: https://www.issfal.org/statement-3.