Supplements by Age

In your 20s

  • Multivitamin and mineral supplements: Minor lack of vitamins and minerals is common and can have adverse effects on growth, immunity, energy production, healing, digestion, nerve function and general maintenance of body tissues. While a healthy diet should always come first, a multivitamin and mineral supplement acts as a nutritional safety net for men and women at all stages of life. Aim for a product that gives you around 100 per cent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for most nutrients.
  • Evening Primrose Oil (EPO): EPO contains essential fatty acids that act as building blocks for hormones, and which are incorporated into cell membranes to maintain the quality of hair, skin and nails. EPO is also useful for women with cyclical breast pain, premenstrual syndrome and to supply essential fatty acids during pregnancy.
  • Folic acid: This is essential for women who are planning a pregnancy, as it reduces the risk of neural tube defects (such as spina bifida) in their babies.
  • Zinc: Male zinc deficiency is common as each ejaculation contains around 5mg - one third of the adult daily requirement. Supplements containing zinc are useful for men planning to father a child as it is important for healthy sperm and sex drive. Zinc can also improve acne.
  • Antioxidants: Antioxidants such as vitamins C and E protect against harmful free radicals produced as a normal by-product of metabolism, especially in smokers and those with diabetes. They are also a good idea for men in the preconceptual period to protect against free radical damage during the 100 days it takes to make a sperm.

In your 30s

As above, plus:

  • Antioxidants by neutralizing harmful free radicals, antioxidants help to slow the ageing process and reduce the future risk of coronary heart disease and cancer. High dose vitamin E reduces the risk of a heart attack in those with heart disease by up to 75 per cent. Men with low levels of vitamin C are 3.5 times more likely to have a heart attack while men taking 200mcg selenium daily are 50 per cent less likely to die from certain cancers including those of the prostate, bowel and lung.
  • Iron: Iron deficiency is common among menstruating women and may lead to anaemia. Choose a supplement containing vitamin C, or take this in addition as vitamin C boosts iron absorption.
  • Magnesium: Lack of magnesium is common and linked with symptoms of pre-menstrual syndrome. Taking magnesium supplements can help relieve symptoms where deficiency is present.
  • B group vitamins: These are needed for energy production in cells and for the maintenance of a healthy nervous system. They are popular for treating pre-menstrual syndrome, general fatigue and for supplementing a vegetarian diet.
  • Adaptogens Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng) and Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) help the body adapt when under physical or emotional stress and are taken to improve stamina, strength and resistance to infection.

In your 40s

As above plus:

  • Garlic: Garlic can lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, thin the blood, dilate blood vessels and improve blood circulation. Standardized garlic powder tablets reduce the risk of stroke by up to 40 per cent and the risk of a heart attack by up to 25 per cent.
  • Omega-3 fish oils: These contain important essential fatty acids that reduce levels of harmful blood fats and reduce the risk of high blood pressure, stroke and death due to a heart attack. Fish oils can also improve long-term inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, eczema, asthma, psoriasis and ulcerative colitis and boost immune function.
  • Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10): This is an essential, vitamin-like compound needed by cells to process oxygen and generate energy-rich molecules. It improves energy levels, strengthens the pumping action of the heart, boosts immunity and improves gum health. It is especially helpful for the over-40s who are suffering from fatigue.
  • Saw palmetto for men, extracts from the fruit of the dwarf American palm tree encourage shrinking of the prostate gland and relieve symptoms of benign prostate enlargement. This improves urinary frequency and significantly increases urinary flow rate. Studies show a 38 per cent improvement in prostate symptoms after six months treatment. Saw palmetto may be taken as a preventative measure, or to treat mild to moderate symptoms of urinary discomfort. Men with urinary problems should always seek medical advice before self-medicating.
  • Folic acid: Folic acid can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke in men with high levels of the amino acid, homocysteine. One in 10 men are thought to have high levels, tripling their risk of a heart attack or stroke. One in 160,000 have very high levels (homocystinuria) with 30 times the risk of premature circulatory problems.
  • Aphrodisiacs: Low sex drive is common in middle age. Supplements containing prosexual herbs such as muira puama, catuaba and damiana are now widely available.

In your 50s and beyond

As above, plus:

  • Multivitamin and minerals: Multivitamin and mineral supplements designed for those over the ages of 50-55 years contain a different blend of micronutrients as your metabolism and ability to absorb dietary nutrients changes with age. On average, you need less iron, more of vitamins B2, B3, B5, B12 and D, and more of antioxidants C and E.
  • Calcium: Lack of dietary calcium at any stage in life leads to reduced mineralization of bones and increases the risk of future osteoporosis. Calcium supplements can reduce the risk of a vertebral fracture in older people by 20 per cent, while both calcium and vitamin D supplements reduces the risk of hip fracture by 30- 40 per cent. Other nutrients such as magnesium, vitamin K and essential fatty acids are also important for bone health.
  • Glucosamine: Glucosamine supplements can help repair damaged joints, torn cartilage, sprained ligaments, strained tendons and prolapsed intervertebral discs. Glucosamine is also useful in arthritis.
  • Devil's claw: Extracts from the root tuber of Devil's claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) has significant anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties to help painful, inflamed joints in those with arthritis.
  • Cat's claw: Cat's claw boosts immunity by encouraging white blood cells to absorb and destroy infections and abnormal cells. It also has anti-inflammatory, antiviral and possibly anti-cancer actions.
  • Ginkgo: Ginkgo biloba extracts contain unique chemicals that help to maintain or improve blood circulation to the brain, hands and feet. Ginkgo can help to improve memory, concentration and symptoms such as dizziness. Improved circulation to the peripheries improves chilblains and calf pain (intermittent claudication) due to blocked arteries.
  • Phosphatidyl serine: Phosphatidyl serine plays an important role in the way brain cells communicate with each other. When taken as a supplement, it helps to improve brain function and memory ' especially in those over the age of 50 years.
  • Phyto-oestrogens: Red clover, soy bean and Japanese arrowroot extracts contain oestrogen-like plant hormones known as isoflavones that help to balance oestrogen levels and are widely used to improve menopausal symptoms. Soy isoflavones also have an antioxidant action and have been shown to help protect against coronary heart disease and osteoporosis.
  • Black cohosh: This helps to reduce menopausal symptoms of hot flushes and sweating through a non-oestrogenic action. Several studies show that standardised extracts of black cohosh are as effective as standard HRT. It is also used to treat painful or irregular periods and pre-menstrual syndrome.

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