Male and female bodies are different. There are a variety of differences between men and women in terms of the…
Male and female bodies are different.
There are a variety of differences between men and women in terms of the nutrients their bodies use, particularly in relation to reproduction. For example, in women, particularly those of childbearing age, being deficient in iron is more common than it is in men. Women may also have to think more about taking in enough calcium than men typically do.
Aging bodies may need more nutrients.
The age of the individual is a key factor for nutrient intake, says Matthew Black, a registered dietitian with the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus. He notes that while there aren’t “any specific vitamins or minerals that physiologic males would be more likely to be deficient in than women, research suggests that aging, in general, is associated with decreased vitamin consumption, which could lead to deficiencies.”
He points to a study that estimates that 50% of older adults have a vitamin and mineral intake less than the recommended daily intake (RDI), and that 10% to 30% have subnormal levels of vitamins and minerals. “Therefore, deficiencies could be associated with changes in eating habits in addition to increased requirements associated with aging.”
He also notes that “as physiological males age, the RDI for certain vitamins and minerals increases, which could place one at risk for being deficient if or when they’re unable to maintain optimal intakes.”
That need is compounded by changes to how the body absorbs nutrients with age.
Mohammed Elamir, an internal medicine physician with Aviv Clinics in The Villages, Florida, says that “as we age, our ability to absorb certain nutrients decreases, especially vitamin B12. If your diet alone is not enough to maintain adequate levels of this or other nutrients, a multivitamin approved for your age should be taken with food (specifically with some good fat) to help absorption. All other supplements should depend on your specific needs.”
Here are seven vitamins and supplements men may want to consider adding, depending on their age, diet and medical needs.
1. B-vitamin complex
New York City-based registered dietitian Jamie Feit, of Jamie Feit Nutrition LLC, says “B vitamins are important for producing red blood cells and energy metabolism.” B vitamins are also involved in the production of the brain neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which can help with mood.
More importantly, the B vitamins can be helpful for people who take acid-reducing medications, such as proton-pump inhibitor medications. These medications can impair B12 absorption. Older adults are also at higher risk of having lower levels of other B vitamins like folate and B6.
Some men may need to consider adding a B-vitamin complex supplement that provides eight essential B vitamins along with folate, choline and inositol.
Calcium is a key mineral that helps build strong bones. However, long-term use of proton-pump inhibitors has been associated with bone mineral density loss in men as well as women. Taking a calcium supplement can help offset that.
Medications in the PPI class include:
— Omeprazole (Prilosec, Prilosec OTC, Zegerid).
— Lansoprazole (Prevacid).
— Esomeprazole (Nexium).
— Pantoprazole (Protonix).
— Rabeprazole (Aciphex).
— Dexlansoprazole (Dexilant).
Feit notes that magnesium “supports cardiovascular health and can help to regulate blood pressure.” It’s also important for muscle contraction, nerve function and energy production.
If you’re taking both magnesium and calcium supplements, it’s best to take them at separate times of day because they compete for absorption by the gut.
4. Saw palmetto
As they get older, some men develop prostate enlargement (benign prostatic hypertrophy or BPH), which can lead to problems with urination. This can mean waking frequently at night to urinate or having difficulty starting urine flow. BPH can also contribute to the development of male pattern baldness.
Saw palmetto, a supplement derived from a shrub-like palm native to the southeastern United States, has been shown to help reduce symptoms associated with BPH.
5. Fish oil
Fish oil is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. These essential nutrients form part of the membranes that surround every cell in the body. Adequate intake of these nutrients have been associated with heart, brain and vascular health, decreased inflammation and improved mood.
Fatty cold water fish, such as salmon and herring, are excellent sources of omega-3s. But if you don’t eat fish, or if you’re among the nearly 70% of American adults one recent study found don’t consume enough omega-3s to meet your nutritional needs, a fish oil supplement can be a good addition.
6. Vitamin D3
Depending on daily sun exposure, the amount of melanin in your skin and your vitamin D levels, you may need to supplement your diet with this important nutrient that supports bone health, regulates inflammation and supports cellular and immune system function.
The National Institutes of Health reports that males aged 1 to 70 should be getting 600 IUs of vitamin D daily. Those over age 70 need 800 IUs daily.
But Black cautions against exceeding the daily upper limit of vitamin D, which is 4,000 IU. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, so excess amounts are stored in the body and toxicity can develop over time in people who are taking too much.
7. A daily multivitamin
Black notes that with a well-planned diet, it’s entirely possible to meet 100% of your DRI without use of multivitamins. But many people do add a daily multivitamin when their diets fall short.
If you’re using a multivitamin after age 50, choose one that does not contain iron, unless your doctor has diagnosed you with an iron deficiency that needs to be corrected.
Feit notes that a daily multivitamin will also supply additional vitamins and minerals that can be helpful, including vitamin E, selenium and vitamin A. These three vitamins have antioxidant properties that help cells repair.
In selecting a multivitamin, Feit recommends reading the label carefully “to see what you’re really getting.” She also recommends buying “a reputable brand that clearly shows which ingredients are in the vitamin. It’s good to check the percent of daily value. You don’t need more than 100% per day.”
Black cautions against exceeding the established ULs (tolerable upper intake level) for any vitamin or mineral. “The term UL is defined as the highest average daily nutrient intake level likely to pose no risk of adverse health effects to almost all individuals in the general population,” he explains.
Remember, supplements aren’t regulated.
Any discussion of supplements should include a big warning that the supplement industry is not regulated by the FDA, and thus, it’s not always clear what you’re getting when you buy a product. “The potency of ingredients and accuracy of labels are sometimes inaccurate, which could pose a potential threat to one’s health, and purported health claims typically aren’t backed by sufficient research,” Black says.
Additionally, he says it’s important to “beware of supplements containing ‘proprietary blends,’ in which the quantities of each individual ingredient are not disclosed and contain names of ingredients, which are unfamiliar to most. A proprietary blend may also be referred to as a ‘blend,’ ‘matrix,’ ‘proprietary formulation’ or ‘complex,’ in which the specific amount of each individual ingredient doesn’t have to be listed. Instead, only the total combined weight in the blend must be provided.”
Be careful with your products and doses.
Black warns that if you’re reaching for a supplement that’s noted as a “T-booster” or testosterone booster, be careful. “One study conducted in 2018 investigated the top five T-boosters sold on Amazon and revealed that ‘limited human studies have evaluated T-Boosters, resulting in no definitive findings of efficacy.’ Likewise, other studies have found these over the counter T-boosters can also pose a risk to one’s health by causing acute kidney and liver injuries.”
Similarly, some products aimed at men contain supplemental lycopene, “which often is contributed to prostate health. However, the evidence available to date remains insufficient to draw a firm conclusion with respect to lycopene supplementation and prostate health.”
Black also cautions against taking in super high levels of any vitamin, particularly those that are fat-soluble, such as vitamins A, D, E and K. “Mega-dosing fat-soluble vitamins could lead to toxicities, if taken in excess of established ULs, and excessive intakes of water-soluble vitamins leads to urinary excretion of the amount the body could not absorb. Either scenario could be a concern with certain health conditions related to liver or kidney function.”
It’s always best to check with your doctor before starting any new supplement, as some can interact negatively with other medications or supplements you’re taking.
Select food first.
“Getting the right balance of food sources can help either prevent or decrease the need for supplementation,” Black says. So, try to meet your needs through food first.
If you do choose a supplement, Elamir notes that you shouldn’t “look for a quick-fix, one-size-fits-all answer through supplements. There’s no magic pill that will replace good lifestyle choices. A well-balanced diet will prevent the need for exogenous vitamins and supplements.”
Get individualized advice.
While it’s easy to lump all women or all men into a single category, it’s best to consider your individual needs. Your specific nutrients will vary based on your age, sex, medical conditions, fitness levels and other factors.
In all cases, work with your health care provider, who can provide tailored advice for your specific situation. Men should undergo an annual physical and blood work and get a doctor’s personalized guidance to know what vitamins are best for them.
And Black adds that if your visit with a health care provider does identify nutrient deficiencies, “you can request consultation with a registered dietitian for further guidance in how to not only correct these deficiencies, but to maintain appropriate levels and identify potential long-term supplementation needs.”
7 vitamins and supplements men need most:
— B-vitamin complex.
— Saw palmetto.
–Fish oil supplements.
— Vitamin D3.
— A daily multivitamin without iron.
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Update 03/04/22: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.