Vitamin & Mineral Requirements through the Generations
Our bodies go through a number of different changes throughout life; we grow, develop, strengthen and age. As we know, receiving the right nutrients is vital for good health, but this is more difficult than we might realize as nutritional requirements vary as we age. For instance, when planning to become pregnant we require additional Folic Acid, as well as sufficient Zinc, Selenium and Omega 3 fatty acids. The wear and tear to the joints, muscles and ligaments as we age can be helped by supplementing with Chondroitin and Glucosamine. And additional B vitamins can help during stressful periods of our lives.
Under 35 Years
Many women start thinking about planning a family in their late 20s and early 30s, therefore optimum nutrition at this stage is very important. Essentially these years are the building blocks for a whole new generation. The problem is that many women at this age prioritise appearance over health and dieting is all too common. Dieters often cut out dairy foods as they are perceived to be high in fat, leading to their Calcium intake being below adequate. This is likely to speed up the natural decline in bone mineral density after the age of 35, increasing the risk of osteoporosis. In more recent years the tendency has been to avoid carbohydrates. This limits the intake of B vitamins, Iron, Zinc and Magnesium. This can affect energy levels and chances of a successful pregnancy.
Men and women under 35 are usually working, often with the added pressure of supporting a family and carving their way up the career ladder. This can increase stress levels which are often relieved through excessive drinking. In the UK the binge drinking culture is growing, and what was once a couple of pints down the pub has turned into a couple of bottles of wine at home in front of the TV most evenings. This is having a tremendous impact on the incidence of liver disease. Many are not aware that more than 4 units of alcohol in one day (which can be as little as 1½ pints of strong beer) can lead to liver disease. Herbal supplements such as Milk Thistle can help to improve liver detoxification, along with a healthy eating program and avoiding alcohol.
Playing the Generation Game
A healthy balanced diet including five portions of different fruit and vegetables each day, wholegrains, lean meat and fish and nuts and seeds, in addition to a healthy active lifestyle is difficult to achieve every day. Coupled with the increase of our need for specific nutrients as we age, supplements can be a useful safety net to ensure optimal health throughout life.
35 to 50 Years
During ‘mid-life’ years both men and women are likely to continue to have strong financial burdens placed on them as children leave home to go to university or college, and both parents are likely to be working to help provide for their own, as well as their children’s future.
Stressful lifestyles often mean that we don’t have time to ensure our diet contains sufficient nutrients, increasing the potential risk for nutrient deficiency. During the later years, increasing complications such as a risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, osteoporosis, arthritis and degenerative diseases increase our requirements for certain nutrients to help, slow or prevent development of such conditions.
During this time women may also begin to experience menopausal symptoms – including night sweats, hot flushes, dry skin and hair, vaginal dryness, sporadic periods and difficulty losing weight. Herbal supplements such as Red Clover can help to alleviate many of these symptoms.
Men may find that their digestive system is suffering more than in previous years, sometimes experiencing symptoms of IBS – including abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhoea/constipation and flatulence. IBS can be caused by stress, a lack of fibre in the diet and food allergies. Aloe Vera has been traditionally used to help relieve these symptoms.
50 to 65 Years
This period of life is probably one of the most critical to ensure that we remain healthy and fit. Most women will have gone through the menopause by 65, but many still find that their health is not what it used to be and concern over degenerative diseases increase. 80% of breast cancer cases occur after the menopause. Ensuring a good intake of the antioxidant vitamins, such as Vitamin A, C, and E and Selenium is very important at this stage. Other good sources of antioxidants include Grape Seed Extract and Lycopene.
Heart disease is also a common worry at this stage of life as it claims more men’s lives than any other disease. One in five men can expect to die from heart disease before they are 75 years old. Men and women in their 50s and 60s could benefit from supplementing with Co Enzyme Q10 – a potent antioxidant found naturally in seafood, meats and wholegrains, which works specifically in the cells of the heart. Natural levels of Co Enzyme Q10 in the body decline with age so taking a supplement may benefit heart health and prevent damage to the arteries.
Risk of joint related disorders such as arthritis can also manifest themselves during this phase of life so supplementing with nutrients such as Glucosamine or an Omega 3 fatty acids which can help to prevent these kinds or problems occurring and may also offer some relief from the pain experienced.
The longer we live, the more our bodies are exposed to the effects of raised cholesterol, pollution, gradual bone loss and not enough physical activity. As we get older, our calorie needs decline due to a drop in muscle strength from less physical activity. Our vitamin and mineral needs, however, stay the same and may even increase if the body starts absorbing them less sufficiently.
Staying as active as possible to retain flexibility and strength benefits both body and mind. It also allows a good food intake without unhealthy weight gain. This helps to maintain a strong immune system, which reduces the risk of illness and speeds recovery. A daily Multi-Vitamin and Mineral supplement can be helpful, too. If creaking and aching joints are stopping you from leading an active lifestyle in later years you may also consider supplementing your diet with a joint-friendly product such as Glucosamine or Chondroitin.
Problems can occur if interest in food declines because of poor appetite, a limited budget, loneliness, illness or medication. Mood boosting herbs including St. John’s Wort may be useful to help alleviate symptoms of depression in this instance.
Check your risk of degenerative disease. If you answer ‘yes’ to two or more of the questions listed, you should consider increasing your intake of antioxidant nutrients:
• Have you ever been exposed to pesticides (living near or working with sprayed crops / plants)?
• Do you sometimes consume more than 3 units (women) / 4 units (men) of alcohol per day?
• Are you regularly exposed to sunlight?
• Do you have a family history of cancer?
• Do you regularly (3 days a week) eat less than 5 portions of fruit and vegetables each day?
• Do you usually eat white bread, pasta or rice instead of brown/ wholegrain?
• Do you, or have you ever smoked?
• Do you regularly fry food or eat barbecued food at all?