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Supplements and Vitamins for the Elderly: A Guide

Benefits of taking vitamins and supplements


Vitamins and supplements can be a good addition to a healthy, balanced diet, and although in no way depended on to form a diet, can help the elderly in ensuring they are receiving the right vitamins to offer them prolonged health and wellbeing. 

Occasionally, people may need to take supplements because of certain genetic conditions. In such cases, supplements are useful to help prevent serious deficiencies that can have adverse consequences on the body.

It’s a good idea to consult with your GP about which vitamins and minerals you intend to take and to discuss the reasons with them. They will be able to advise you on which vitamins may help you and be of your benefit to include within your day to day routine. 

In older adults, there may be some health problems that result in poorer absorption of vitamins and minerals, which may warrant extra supplements. The next section will cover this in more detail. 

Should the elderly be taking nutritional supplements?

Older adults may need to take supplements if they are not gaining the appropriate levels of vitamins and minerals from their diets, but it is a good idea to check with your healthcare practitioner as a precaution. If you would like to read more on how live-in carers will be able to help with medication management, you can read our in-depth guide to live-in care here


There are a few main supplements often needed by elderly people since the ability to absorb certain vitamins and minerals may decrease with age. 


Vitamin D

Vitamin D may need to be added for those older than 70 years.



Women over 50 years old may need more calcium than men for bone health.


Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 may be helpful for eye health in the elderly.


Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 may be helpful for brain health in the elderly.


If the elderly are taking supplements, it is also a good idea that they are regularly checked in to ensure they are taking the correct dosage, whether they have ordered the correct type of supplement. It may also be aa good idea to be monitored in terms of how long they are going to be taking the supplements. 

It can cause long term damage to oversubscribe or take too many supplements or certain vitamins. f the supplements are not prescribed then they may not inform their GP that they are taking them and this can sometimes pose a risk if they are taking other medications, since there is a chance of drugs interacting. 

A list of vitamins and supplements suitable for the elderly and what they do to the body


As well as those listed above, other vitamins and mineral supplements may still be taken in the elderly if this is deemed appropriate. If elderly people wish to take supplements, they should do so with the correct dosage as prescribed on the bottle and continue to eat a varied and balanced diet. 

The Live in Care Company has put together a list of typical vitamins and supplements an elderly person might want to include in their diet, as well as details of their function and where you can find them in common everyday foods. 



Type Function Foods
The water-soluble vitamins (vitamins B and C): These are not often stored in the body so it is good to get them from our diets regularly. N/A
  • Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
Co-enzyme, Metabolism, Converts nutrients to energy Nuts, seeds, wholegrain, oats, pork
  • Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
Co-enzyme, Converts nutrients to energy Liver, goats cheese, almonds, eggs, marmite, broccoli, milk
  • Vitamin B3 (niacin)
Co-enzyme, essential in cellular function, extracts energy from glucose Liver, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, sunflower seeds, marmite and peanuts
  • Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)
Wide range of metabolic functions In most foods. Highest levels in marmite, shiitake mushrooms, chicken, beef, broccoli and egg yolks
  • Vitamin B6
Coenzyme, red blood cells, energy metabolism Nuts, liver, salmon, banana, chickpeas, potatoes
  • Vitamin B7 (biotin)
Hair, skin and nails Fish, meat, dairy, eggs, legumes and leafy greens
  • Vitamin B9 (folate)
Cell growth, DNA formation, blood cell formation, important in pregnancy and infancy Liver, legumes, leafy vegetables, edamame, peanuts
  • Vitamin B12 (cobalamin)
Brain function, red blood cells, DNA synthesis and energy. 

Older people absorb this vitamin more poorly so may require a supplement. 

Animal products: meat, dairy, eggs and seafood. Tempeh and seaweed contain small amounts for vegans   
  • Vitamin C
Antioxidant, collagen formation and immune function Fruits and Vegetables. Highest in guava, red bell pepper, kale and kiwifruits
The fat-soluble vitamins: Fat-soluble vitamins are found in high-fat foods and absorbed into the body.
  • Vitamin A (retinol)
Essential for vision, also immune function, growth and foetal development Fish liver oil, beef liver, butter, egg yolk. Can be derived from red, yellow and orange vegetables
  • Vitamin D
Bones and immune system Sunshine. Fatty fish and oils have small amounts. 

Supplements may be helpful for some.

  • Vitamin E
Antioxidant, protect the body against damage and ageing Vegetable oils, nuts and seeds
  • Vitamin K
Blood clotting, bone health Parsley, kale, spinach, liver, butter, egg yolks
Major minerals: Used and stored in large quantities in the body.
  • Calcium
Bones, teeth, muscles, nerves, blood clotting, blood pressure and immune system Milk, green vegetables, legumes
  • Chloride
Fluid balance and stomach acid Table salt, soy sauce
  • Magnesium
Proteins, muscles, nerves and immune system Nuts, seeds, legumes, vegetables, chocolate, “hard” drinking water
  • Phosphorus
Bones and teeth Meat, fish, eggs, milk
  • Potassium
Fluid balance, nerves and muscles Meats, milk, fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains
  • Sodium
Fluid balance, nerves and muscles Table salt, soy sauce
  • Sulphur
Proteins Meats, fish, eggs, milk, legumes, nuts
Trace minerals: Just as vital as major minerals for the body but we need less of these. 
  • Chromium
Regulates blood sugar with insulin Brewer’s yeast, whole grains, nuts, cheeses
  • Copper
Enzymes and iron metabolism Legumes, nuts, whole grains, water
  • Fluoride
Bones and teeth Drinking water, fish and most teas
  • Iodine
Thyroid, growth and development, metabolism Seafood, bread, dairy
  • Iron
Red blood cells, metabolism Organ meats, red meats, fish, egg yolks, legumes, dried fruit, leafy vegetables
  • Manganese
Enzymes Widespread in foods, especially plant foods
  • Molybdenum
Enzymes Legumes, bread, leafy greens, milk
  • Selenium
Antioxidant Meats, nuts, seafood, grains
  • Zinc
Enzymes, proteins, wound healing, foetal development, sexual function, immune system Meat, fish, whole grains, vegetables
Antioxidants: Antioxidants protect the body from harmful molecules that can cause cell damage.
  • Carotenoids
Include beta-carotene and are thought to help decrease cancer and eye disease. Carrots, apricots, broccoli, grapefruits, oranges, tomatoes, watermelon, squash, sweet potato
  • Flavonoids
Regulate cellular activity and reduce cellular stress. Onion, kale, parsley, tea, red wine, dark chocolate, citrus fruits
  • Catechins 
Help prevent cell damage and protect molecules. Apples, green tea, dark chocolate, red wines, pears, cherries
+ Vitamin C, E and Selenium


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