I’m a dietitian – here’s the best supplements to take during every decade of your life and which ones to avoid

A WELL-balanced diet is often enough to provide us with all the nutrients we need.

But sometimes a couple of extra vitamins and minerals are required to ensure we’re in optimum health.

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Where should you start though? There are so many on offer and lots of conflicting advice on social media.

Registered dietitian Ro Huntriss explains.

She said: “Nutrients are vital for maintaining good health, and our main source of these essential compounds is through the foods we consume.

“A balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates and healthy fats supports various bodily functions and promotes overall well-being.

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“Although we should try to get our nutrients from our food where possible, supplements can sometimes be a useful addition to the diet in cases where one may have difficulty getting sufficient nutrients from their diet, or in cases of increased nutrient requirements or deficiency .”

Your age plays a role in what your body needs – so what’s called for in your teens may differ hugely 40 years later.

Here, Ro identifies the most important supplements during each decade of your life.

Teens

A quarter of kids aged 11 to 18 in the UK have low vitamin D levels, according to the British Nutrition Foundation.

Deficiencies, classified as less than 25nmol/L, are most prevalent among adolescent girls, with 39 per cent impacted.

Ro said vitamin D plays an important role in many aspects of health, including bone development, immunity and psychological wellbeing, so it’s vital to stay on top of.

“But our diets aren’t great sources of it in the UK, so we need to rely on exposure to the sun during spring and summer, and supplements in the autumn and winter,” she added.

For some people, supplements may be required all year round and in higher doses than the general recommendation of 10mcg per day.

You can have your levels tested with your GP.

20s

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 30 per cent of women aged 15 to 49 are anemic.

“Therefore, iron is an important nutrient to consider for many women in their 20s, especially if a woman has heavy periods,” Ro said.

Iron can be found in meat, fish, legumes and nuts, so a diet rich in these items is a great place to start.

But if iron levels are low, a supplement can help correct a deficiency, the expert added.

30s

“The average age of a mother giving birth in the UK is now over 30 years, so I’ll make a recommendation related to pregnancy,” Ro said.

Ideally, women should take a 400mcg folic acid supplement three months before pregnancy and up to 12 weeks in, according to the NHS.

This significantly reduces the risk of neural tube defects, experts say.

The health service also recommends that vitamin A supplements be avoided during pregnancy as too much has the potential to cause damage to the unborn baby.

40s

For many women, perimenopause approaches in their 40s.

It is the transitional period leading up to the menopause where symptoms such as mood swings, brain fog, poor sleep and hot flushes can arise.

Ro said magnesium can support many women through this difficult stage of life.

She said: “It is associated with improved psychological function, can help reduce tiredness and fatigue, and assists in maintaining good bone health.”

There are many magnesium supplements out there, but it can also be found in whole grains, green leafy vegetables and dairy.

In terms of what to avoid in your 40s, Ro advises steering clear of any supplements containing caffeine if you’re struggling to sleep.

It’s more common than you think, and it can increase your chances of having difficulty nodding off and staying in a deep slumber.

50s

Once you hit the menopause, there is a significant decline in oestrogen levels, Ro said.

“This can cause a reduction in bone mass, increasing the risk of osteoporosis”, she added.

“Some women may be required to take a calcium supplement in addition to a good dietary calcium intake.”

Calcium is found in dairy products, fortified plant-based alternatives, fish with bones and bread.

60s

“In our 60s, we’re bringing it back around to vitamin D,” Ro said.

“It is a nutrient that is important throughout our lives, but those aged 65 and over are less efficient at producing vitamin D.

“They are therefore advised to take a 10mcg vitamin D supplement all year long.

“This is particularly important in the case of low sun exposure.”

70s

It’s “really important” to be aware of your vitamin B12 levels throughout your whole life, but particularly in later years, according to Ro.

“This is when deficiencies are most commonly seen, especially over the age of 75,” she added.

B12 is found naturally in animal products such as meat, fish and dairy, so a plant-based diet without sufficient fortified foods will require some supplementation.

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“Deficiency in B12 has been associated with memory problems, loss of vision, loss of coordination and damage to the nervous system, so it is very important to get checked out and treated,” Ro said.

“For long-term management, ensure you have a sufficient intake of B12-rich foods in your diet, or take a regular supplement.”

Do I need to take supplements?

Most people don’t need to take vitamin supplements as they can get all the vitamins and minerals they need by eating a healthy, balanced diet.

But these nutrients, like iron, calcium and vitamin C, are essential for our bodies to work properly, so it’s important to make sure we are getting enough.

However, taking too much can be harmful, so it’s important to get your levels checked by a doctor.

There are certain groups – including pregnant people, children, and those who don’t see a lot of sunlight – who are advised to take supplements.

You can see the full list of NHS recommendations here.

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