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‘I’m a Longevity Expert, and This Is the One Vitamin People Over 50 Should Stop Taking ASAP’



Vitamins for people over 50

Getting enough vitamins may have been drilled into you early on by parents who insisted you “eat your vegetables.” Getting nutrients is vital to health at any age, particularly as we rack up those birthdays. And nowadays, it’s hard not to doom scroll on social media or get through your favorite TV show without seeing an ad for vitamins that promise to keep you in the best health. It sounds easy—take this capsule, and you’re good to go. Who needs those peas and carrots anyway?

One longevity expert cautions that these quick-fix promises aren’t always the best Rx. In fact, some can be harmful, especially as people get older.

“It is helpful to understand the benefits and risks of taking vitamins and supplements because even though you can get them over-the-counter or without a prescription, they can still have some risks even if they are taken in the wrong amount or in combination with other medication,” explains Christopher Norman, GNP, a geriatric nurse practitioner with the National Council on Aging (NCOA). “Older adults can especially have problems with taking supplements and vitamins due to age-related changes and chronic health conditions that change how our bodies process medication.”

Norman cautions people over 50 against one vitamin in particular. He shared which one and better ways to get this essential nutrient.

Related: If You Want to Live to 100, Here’s the Surprising Thing to Prioritize

The Vitamin To Avoid Over 50, According to a Longevity Expert

Vitamin A supplements top Norman’s do-not-fly list for his patients over 50. “Studies have shown that a healthy and diverse diet will get you enough vitamin A, and food sources are the best sources of vitamins in general,” Norman explains.

Of course, vitamin A is an essential piece of a healthy diet. The National Institute of Dietary Supplements recommends adult males get 900 mcg RAE and females get 700 mcg RAE of vitamin A daily. However, as Norman says, you’re probably already getting that. When it comes to vitamin A, there’s such a thing as too much of a good thing, especially for older adults.  

“Older adults should be careful with vitamin A because it can potentially reduce bone density, as well as cause liver damage or joint pain, and symptoms like nausea, headache or diarrhea,” Norman says.

Let’s double-tap on the first one, bone density, which can be especially problematic for aging adults. Norman says it puts people at a higher risk for fractures if they fall. Falls become more common as we age and can have severe consequences like ER visits and even death, according to the CDC.

Research has been mixed on vitamin A supplementation and bone health. For instance, a 2021 review pointed to some studies that showed an uptick in density with vitamin A supplementation. Yet, others found no change, and another noted a decrease. Merck Manual and Cleveland Clinic also cite bone health, liver, joint and GI discomfort as concerns for overdoing it with vitamin A.

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Other Ways to Get Vitamin A

Norman doesn’t recommend supplementing vitamin A, but he definitely recommends getting enough and understands why older adults may want to reach for a tablet.

“Vitamin A is well-known for its potential to maintain good vision, immune function and skin health,” Norman says. “Older adults may be particularly interested in it for its potential to support eye health and prevent or slow vision from getting worse.”

It’s common to experience vision changes as you age, like struggling to see words and photos up close. 

However, Norman has a more delicious approach to gobbling up vitamin A

“I recommend trying to naturally consume needed nutrients through food before relying on supplements,” Norman says. “People have been eating and processing food for thousands of years. Our bodies know how to get what we need from food. While there can be value to vitamins or supplements when we have an actual deficiency in something, our bodies process food better than pills.”

Excellent Sources of Vitamin A Include:

  • Leafy green vegetables

  • Salmon

  • Sweet potatoes

  • Dairy products

  • Liver

  • Carrots

  • Cantaloupe

Related: ‘I’m an Osteoporosis Specialist, and This Is the Type of Cheese I Swear By for Bone Health’

Another Vitamin To Be Wary of if You’re Over 50

Norman isn’t a fan of vitamin B6, either. “Vitamin B6 is needed to form red blood cells which carry oxygen and nutrients to all the different parts of our bodies, but too much vitamin B6 can contribute to neurological problems like poor balance—which could lead to falls—and nerve damage,” Norman says.

The Office of Dietary Supplements raises similar caution flags about excessive vitamin B6 consumption. Instead, you can get vitamin B6 through foods like:

  • Fish

  • Poultry

  • Potatoes

  • Starchy veggies

  • Non-citrus fruits

Choosing Safe Supplements

Sometimes, a supplement like a vitamin might be a good idea. Norman shared these tips for finding the best course for you:

  • Read the label to ensure the supplement has been tested and approved for quality.

  • Make sure you understand why you are taking the supplement. Don’t just try it because other people are.

  • Consult your healthcare provider to make sure it is necessary and safe for you to take.

The third point about discussing your decision and options with your doctor is actually Norman’s top-line advice. “If you come across an advertisement for a vitamin or supplement that might be ‘the perfect thing’ for whatever condition you might be struggling with, ask a trusted and qualified healthcare professional before just starting it up,” he recommends.

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