Do you need a "50-plus" multivitamin to meet your changing nutrient needs?

  • 2 Minutes Read
Sue Heikkinen
Sue Heikkinen, MS, RDN, CDCES, BC-ADM, ACE-PT - Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist

As you age, you may need more of certain vitamins and minerals, which could mean including a 50-plus multivitamin. Aging comes with changing nutrient needs, yet your calorie needs decrease. Here's how a 50-plus multivitamin is different from other vitamins to suit your stage of life.

50-plus multivitamin

How a 50-plus multivitamin might help fill in nutrition gaps

If you are over the age of 50, you have figured out that you can't eat the way you did in your twenties without weight gain. Although your calorie needs decrease with age, you still need at least the same amount of most vitamins and minerals. If you limit calories for weight loss, it can be even more challenging to meet your changing nutrient needs.

Although foods are the best nutrient sources, supplements can fill the gap between your requirements and actual intake. One way to cover all your bases is to take a multivitamin.

Consider these vitamins and minerals with aging

Vitamin D

The "sunshine vitamin" is not just valuable for bone health. Vitamin D also appears to play an important role in cognitive function and emotional health. Because vitamin D production from sunlight declines with age, the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) increases from 600 IU to 800 IU after age 70.

Manufacturers tend to include high amounts of vitamin D in 50-plus multivitamins. Therefore, tally your vitamin D intake from all sources to ensure it isn't excessive-4000 IU per day is the Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL).

Vitamin B6

We need vitamin B6 for red blood cell formation and nerve function. It plays a vital role in immune function and metabolism. Although true deficiency of this vitamin is rare, B6 absorption and use efficiency decrease with age.

The RDA for B6 is higher for those 51 and older: 1.7 mg for men and 1.3 mg for women. Most 50-plus multivitamins contain at least this amount of B6.

Vitamin B12

We use vitamin B12 for red blood cell formation and nerve function. Lower levels of this nutrient affect older adults because deficiency can contribute to confusion and memory issues.

The ability to absorb vitamin B12 from food sources decreases with age as stomach acid production declines. For this reason, people over the age of 50 should get most of this vitamin from supplements or fortified foods, given that these sources do not require stomach acidity for absorption. The RDA for B12 does not increase with age.

If you follow a vegan diet, take the medication metformin, or take medication that lowers stomach acid, you are at increased risk of B12 deficiency. Ask your doctor if you should have your levels checked. You may need to take a higher dose of B12 than the amount contained in a multivitamin.


Calcium is essential for bone health, although more is not better. Fifty-plus multivitamins are often a bit higher in calcium than standard formulas. However, it's not easy to put so much calcium into one pill, as the pill would be huge. If you don't get enough calcium from your diet, you may need to take a separate calcium supplement.

Calcium absorption declines with age. Therefore, the RDA for calcium increases to 1200 mg for women aged 51 and older and men aged 71 and older.


Since men and postmenopausal women require less iron, 50-plus formulas generally don't contain iron. Iron supplements can cause digestive side effects and pose health risks if taken in excess. Unless you have a medical condition that calls for more iron, an iron-free formula is best.

Beware of supplement claims

It's tempting to think a supplement will combat all sorts of effects of aging, from heart disease to gray hair. Phrases like "supports joint health" imply that a product will eliminate knee pain or back pain. Yet, there may not be any evidence that the supplement protects you. Keep in mind that the FDA does not test supplements for effectiveness or safety.

So, should I take a 50-plus multivitamin?

Aging does change nutrient requirements. If you are on a weight-loss diet or limit certain foods, a 50-plus multivitamin can help ensure you meet your nutrient needs. Remember, these are supplements, not replacements. It's still about the food.

Track with MyNetDiary to know how your food choices stack up and where you may have vitamin or mineral gaps. You can also include supplements as part of your daily nutrient report.

Additional resources

Dietary Supplements for Older Adults
Office of Dietary Supplements Dietary Supplements Fact Sheets
Special Nutrient Needs of Older Adults

Adapted from original content from Donna P Feldman MS RDN, author of Food Wisdom.

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Nutrients->Other Vitamins & Minerals Other Health Issues->Aging
Jun 9, 2021

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