Older men and women who take nutritional supplements are more likely to get adequate amounts of several vitamins and minerals than their peers who don't use supplements, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. The researchers also found that while a substantial proportion of people 51 and older don't get enough vitamins and minerals from diet alone, fewer than half took supplements every day.
They analyzed 1994-1996 data on 4,384 men and women aged 51 and older to investigate if supplement users were actually better nourished, and also to determine which people were most likely to use supplements. Overall, abut 40 percent reported taking supplements daily. While supplement users obtained more nutrients from food than people who didn't use supplements, both groups got far less folate, vitamin E and magnesium than they needed from diet alone, Sebastian and her team found. Eighty percent of supplement users got enough vitamin A, B-6, B-12, C and E; folate; iron; and zinc from diet and supplements.
The researchers also found that some supplement users, especially men, were consuming too much iron or zinc, while some female supplement users were getting too much vitamin A. Excess iron consumption may be harmful to the heart, while getting too much zinc may impair immune function and reduce levels of the "good" cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein, the researchers point out. Based on the findings, the researchers add, older people should avoid the routine use of supplements containing retinol (a form of vitamin A) and iron.
Bonnie - I agree with several assumptions: over 50 mg. zinc daily is too much (however, I do not believe that many people ingest that much); with regard to too much vitamin A, if mostly from beta carotene, it is non-toxic, even in large amounts and under 5000IU of retinol vitamin A is perfectly fine; male adults and post-menopausal women should never take supplemental iron unless anemic. Watch for iron in multivitamin/minerals and iron-fortified cereals, which could give you excess iron.