Supplements for children are vitamins and minerals, proteins, and omega-3 oils, in children’s doses in chewable or syrup forms.
Supplements for adolescents are vitamins and minerals, proteins, and omega-3 oils in adult doses in non-chewable forms.
Supplements for adults are vitamins and minerals, proteins, omega-3 oils, and vitamin D.
Add a calcium supplement for adults below the age of 30 years.
Add a broad-spectrum antioxidant supplement after the age of 40 years to prevent degeneration and ageing.
Add coenzyme Q10 and calcium supplements after the age of 50 years.
Add fiber and probiotic supplements after the age of 60 years.
Add problem-specific supplements after the age of 70 years. There are separate supplements to choose from for the health of the eyes, brain, heart, liver, pancreas, bones, joints, and immune function.
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Supplements are nutrients in a condensed and convenient form. There are two broad categories of supplements:
- Those with nutrients, which are a part of our diet, such as vitamins, proteins, and garlic or ginger extracts; and
- Those with specialised nutrients, such as Silymarin (for fatty liver) and Gymnema (for blood glucose control).
We will focus on the first category in this article.
As we age—going from childhood, adolescence, and adulthood to old age—our nutritional requirements change. Then, there are special nutrient needs in specific cases, such as pregnant women and athletes. I will stick to age-related supplement requirements here.
When the body can not get adequate amounts of nutrients, supplements should be used to augment the dietary intake. In case you think we don’t need them, read on this website: Why do we need supplements? In that article, I have covered how our environment, modern farm practices, and our busy lifestyles have led to a shortfall in the intake of nutrients.
I will suggest supplements for various age groups based on what is crucial at that age but is often inadequate in the diet.
Supplements for Children
Little children grow very fast. So they need a lot of nutrients. Most of them are similar to what an adult needs, except those that are needed for reproductive health.
Unfortunately, children are finicky eaters when it comes to healthy foods. They love to eat pizzas, biscuits (cookies), and soft drinks (colas), instead of green leafy vegetables, for example.
When it comes to kids, keep these in mind:
- They need a lesser amount of nutrients than adults and that quantity increases with their ages. The nutrient composition also needs to be different than the adult one. So their vitamin and mineral supplements have to be specifically formulated for kids. Giving an adult supplement in less quantity is not the right option;
- They cannot swallow tablets, especially if they are less than seven years old. Usually, children are given chewable tablets or gummies to avoid this issue;
- Children smaller than 4 years are usually given syrups.
Most children benefit by taking proteins, vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 oils as supplements. Also, calcium, iron, and vitamin C supplements are used based on special needs.
- Proteins: Children need proteins for their fast growth and better strength. In children, proteins also help in improved immunity and brain function (cognition).
- Vitamins and minerals: Since children are fussy eaters, it is best to give them a multivitamin and multimineral supplement to cover a possible shortfall.
- Omega-3 oils: Fish oils containing DHA and EPA are very useful in kids for improving attention deficit symptoms, reducing allergies, and improving sleep as well as academic performance. Read on this website: ADHD in children: Symptoms and management.
- Calcium: Calcium is needed for strong teeth and bones in children. While a good multimineral supplement contains calcium, it might be a good idea to give a separate calcium supplement if the child does not eat dairy products (low calcium intake) or does not play outdoors (low vitamin D). Low levels of calcium in the bones in childhood and adolescence lead to an increased risk of osteoporosis at later stages of life.
- Iron: Low levels of iron in a child’s body can lead to anemia as well as growth and development problems. Interestingly, calcium reduces but vitamin C increases iron absorption in the intestines. If a child shows symptoms of anemia, such as fatigue, slow development, pale skin, or poor eating, consider an iron supplement.
- Vitamin C: If a child is falling sick multiple times, it indicates poor immunity. Along with protein and iron supplements, consider a vitamin C supplement in such a child.
Supplements for Adolescents
Adolescents should be given adult supplements. They don’t need chewy versions as they are capable of swallowing them.
Calcium supplements are vital in adolescents as they undergo a growth spurt and their skeletons need a lot of new calcium for strong bones.
For young girls, calcium supplements are especially important to increase their bone density. Similarly, iron supplements are useful to prevent anemia due to blood loss during their periods.
A common occurrence in young girls these days is a condition called polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS. To prevent or manage PCOS, many supplements are useful. Read on this website: Supplements for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
One needs to keep an eye on the supplements that adolescents use for weight loss as well as body-building.
As kids grow up, due to peer pressure, they may resort to unproven or untested weight loss supplements that could have harmful substances in them. Some such supplements can cause depressive and suicidal tendencies.
Growing boys get enamoured with the idea of bulking up. They may fall for exaggerated claims of muscle growth and end up taking anabolic steroids.
A creatine supplement gives energy for muscle contraction. Athletes who do powerlifting or sprints find them useful in enhancing their performance. However, they are advisable only after the age of 18 years, not for young adolescents.
Supplements for Adults
All adults should have a baseline supplement coverage of vitamins, minerals, proteins, omega-3 oils, and these days, vitamin D. The purpose of the same nutrient supplement may be different in adults from that in childhood.
- Protein: Protein is needed for strength and to preserve muscle mass. All enzymes and body processes also need proteins.
- Omega-3 oils: Omega-3 oils such as EPA and DHA help in various body systems. However, their big role in adulthood is to lower chronic inflammation in the body, which is a common occurrence due to modern lifestyles. Unhealthy oils, processed foods, lack of adequate sleep, and chronic stress lead to long-term inflammation in the body causing or triggering many degenerative diseases. Omega-3 oils, such as fish oils, help reduce inflammation and prevent such diseases. Read on this website: Omega–3 oils: A complete guide.
- Vitamins and minerals: It is very expensive to test for deficiencies of the common vitamins and minerals. It is much cheaper to take a multivitamin, multimineral supplement that has recommended dietary allowance or RDA for each nutrient.
Typical RDAs are so low that your body ends up using all of them on a daily basis. It is almost impossible to end up with excess nutrient accumulation or toxicity in the body by just taking such a supplement.
Ideally, the minerals in the supplement should be obtained from a natural, organic source instead of an inorganic, chemical source. The absorption of minerals from natural sources is much more. Reason: chemical salts of minerals get dissociated in the stomach acid and quickly end up forming bonds with oxalates and phytates in the foods. Our intestines usually absorb minerals in the ion form. Formation of mineral oxalates and phthalates leaves no free mineral ions for absorption. Those mineral compounds get excreted through the stools later. Incidentally, oxalates and phytates are called ‘anti-nutrients‘ because of the above action. Minerals from plant sources come with covalent bonds and not ionic bonds like the mineral salts have (apologies for the chemistry overdose 🤓). Stomach acids don’t break those covalent bonds easily, allowing mineral ions to be available in the intestines.
- Vitamin D: Unfortunately, these days, most of us spend a lot of time working indoors and not in the fields. This causes a significant deficiency of vitamin D, which is needed to absorb calcium and phosphorus, increase immunity, and reduce inflammation and cancer growth. A supplement of vitamin D has become almost a necessity for most adults.
In countries like India, where there is no fortification of foods with vitamin D, nearly 95% of the well-off people are deficient in vitamin D. Some people find that surprising in a country with ample sunlight. But here are some reasons for that: What is ‘adequate’ sun exposure for vitamin D?
Supplements for Adults Below 30 Years of Age
Calcium: Calcium is touted as a supplement needed for post-menopausal women. Similarly, older men run a higher risk of falls and bone fractures. So calcium supplement is advised after the age of 50 years. Unfortunately, that is inadequate science and advice.
The best time to take calcium supplements is before the age of 30 years. That is the time when our bodies reach their peak bone mass density. If you give enough calcium to the body by that time, the bones will be more replete with calcium.
After that age, it is just downhill for the bone calcium density—you can slow down its fall with a calcium supplement but cannot stop it. Check my YouTube video below on that topic.
Supplements for Adults Above 40 Years of Age
Antioxidants: After the age of 40 years, some degenerative changes in the body become visible. The person may develop one or two ageing-related health conditions such as heart disease, arthritis, or diabetes. One should add at least one good antioxidant to slow down this decay.
Antioxidants are of two types: fat-soluble and water-soluble. The former prevents free radical damage in the fatty matter in the body, while the latter does the same in the water-soluble parts of the body. So ideally, one should have a combination of fat-soluble and water-soluble antioxidants. Together, they prevent free radical damage in the whole body, protecting it from many degenerative disorders at an early age.
I prefer a cocktail of various plant-based antioxidants such as lutein, lycopene, ECGC, ellagic acid, resveratrol, and beta-carotenes. In my opinion, a strong antioxidant coverage that protects against premature ageing is the most important finding of modern nutritional science.
Supplements for Adults Above 50 Years of Age
CoQ10: A nutrient called Coenzyme Q10 or CoQ10 is produced in all organs of the body. It helps the cells to generate energy. So all organs depend on the adequate production of CoQ10 for their proper functioning.
As we age, the production of CoQ10 in the body starts falling, sometimes by as much as 50%. This prevents the organ cells from functioning correctly leading to various age-related problems. A CoQ10 supplement is a must after the age of 50 years when the body’s CoQ10 levels are quite low.
Read on this website: Coenzyme Q10: A complete guide.
Calcium: Taking a calcium supplement is advisable, especially for women.
Supplements for Adults Above 60 Years of Age
At this age, the digestive system is noticeably weaker. Peristalsis or the movement of food in the intestines slows down. This causes excess growth of bacteria and rotting of food leading to gas trouble or flatulence. If the food stays in the intestines for too long, it can cause constipation.
Fiber: A good supplement for keeping the digestive system healthy is dietary fiber. Men should take 35 g of fiber a day; and women should take 25 g a day. Unfortunately, the average fiber intake through foods is 14 g a day. And this number includes all adults, not just elderly adults. So every adult needs a fiber supplement.
However, in elderly people, two additional problems exist: reduced appetite and weaker teeth. Both of them lead to a reduced intake of fibrous foods.
Besides keeping the digestive system healthy, fiber also helps control blood glucose and cholesterol. There are many more benefits of fiber. Read on this website: Benefits of fiber.
Probiotics: Healthy gut bacteria are essential for the production of B-vitamins as well as many chemicals that help in the proper functioning of our nervous system. With age and multiple life stressors such as pollution, antibiotics, severe stress, and inadequate sleep, the gut bacterial mass may not be healthy. Taking a good probiotic supplement daily will help.
Proteins: The function of protein supplementation at this age is not just to retain muscle mass and strength but also to improve heart health and bone health. It is also to support immunity and brain function (cognition).
Supplements for Adults Above 70 Years of Age
At this age, many degenerative changes are present in the body, reducing functionality. One can add supplements specific to those problems. For example, if one is suffering from joint pain, one can consider supplements that improve joint health.
Another option is to add supplements to prevent problems from happening, based on a vulnerability. For example, if one gets weaker eyesight or notices episodes of forgetfulness, one can consider taking supplements for eye health or brain health, respectively. I prefer this approach since, at that age, most health problems cause irreversible damage and are best avoided. The cost of prevention is far less than the cost of cure at that stage of life.
Here are some supplements that help different body systems:
- Eye health: lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-carotenes;
- Brain health: ECGC (green tea extract);
- Bone health: calcium, magnesium, vitamin D;
- Joint health: glucosamine, chondroitin, boswellia, bromelain (pineapple extract), MSM;
- Heart health: garlic extract, B-vitamins;
- Pancreatic (blood glucose) health: gymnema extract, cinnamon extract, aloe vera juice;
- Prostate health: saw palmetto extract, nettle root extract, pumpkin seed extract;
- Liver health: silymarin (milk thistle extract);
- Immunity: Vitamin C, echinacea extract, elderberry extract.
Of course, one must first consult a medical professional in all such situations.
You can read my articles on supplements that help in different medical conditions. I explain why the problem arises and how supplements can help. The links to such articles, as well as those on nutrients, are at the end of this writeup.
It may not be a bad idea to take all these supplements if you keep poor health. Another reason would be if there is a lack of family members or caretakers at home. Some people prefer not to be dependent on others even at that age. For living a dignified and independent life, protecting crucial body systems with supplements can go a long way.
I understand that the cost of taking so many supplements is too high. I know it well having spent huge amounts on supplements for all my family elders for more than 15 years. While the health returns my family received were significant, I am appreciative of the financial burden of such an expense. On a lighter note, I always say:
“It is better to have a pristine heart and a rickety car, than a rickety heart and a pristine car.”
I never understood why people take loans to buy fancy cars and then scrimp to save money on buying good-quality supplements. Is it because others can see the condition of one’s house, cellphone, and car but not of the liver, heart, and lungs?
To save on costs, I suggest another approach: Take each body-system-specific supplement (given in the list above) every two days instead of daily. That will reduce the benefit but it will also halve the costs. Supplements are not like antibiotics or Parkinson’s medicines, where you need to stick to the timing and the dosages strictly. After all, taking a nutrient four times a week is far better than taking it zero times a week.
To Read More
- CDC: Iron: Infant and Toddler Nutrition
- Mayo Clinic: Iron deficiency in children: Prevention tips for parents
- Lloyds Pharmacy: Our guide to vitamin supplements for teenagers
- SFGate: Recommended Supplements for Teen Girls
- National Institute on Aging, NIH: Dietary Supplements for Older Adults
- AARP Foundation: Supplements to Take in Your 50s, 60s, and 70s
- Snug Safety: The 7 Best Vitamins for Seniors To Protect Brain, Eye, and Bone Health
Articles in Supplementation Series
- Supplements for Various Age Groups
- Supplements for Type 2 Diabetes
- Supplements for Osteoarthritis
- Supplements for Hair Loss
- Supplements for Fatty Liver
- Supplements for Autoimmune Disorders
- Supplements for Anemia
- Supplements for Prostate Enlargement
- Supplements for Macular Degeneration
- Supplements for PCOS
- Supplements for Parkinson’s Disease
- Supplements for Gout
- Supplements for Eczema
First published on: 18th May 2022
Image credit: Mikhail Nilov from Pexels
Last updated on: 26th May 2022