Last updated: September 14, 2020
Nutritional requirements change throughout an individual’s life cycle. Whether you’re a young adult trying to maintain optimal health or in your 80s trying to prevent degenerative conditions, it is crucial to consider your specific nutritional needs. Meeting your nutritional needs through a healthy and balanced diet is ideal, however, nutrient deficiencies are common in North America and many of us require additional support. For example, over 40% of individuals are vitamin D deficient, and many don’t obtain the minimum requirements of magnesium, potassium, and other essential nutrients each day. (12)(31)(34)
The typical Western diet, characterized by a low intake of fruits and vegetables and a high intake of sugary, high-fat, and processed foods, may be partly responsible for the increasing prevalence of nutrient deficiencies. This dietary pattern may also contribute to certain chronic health conditions, including cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. (8)(45)
For some individuals, supplementing with certain nutrients may help fill the gaps in your diet and promote better overall health, no matter your age. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the common nutrients lacking in men’s diets and the top men’s health supplements by age group.
Men in their adolescent years
The adolescent years are a critical time for bone development. Therefore, adequate dietary intake of certain nutrients, such as calcium and vitamin D, is necessary. For individuals struggling to obtain enough of these essential nutrients through diet alone, adding a supplement, as advised by an integrative healthcare practitioner, may be beneficial.
During adolescence, between 40 to 60% of adult bone mass is accrued, which increases calcium needs from 1,000 mg per day for children age four through eight to 1,300 mg per day for 9-18 year olds. (13)(33) Milk, yogurt, cheese, sardines, and tofu are among the richest sources of dietary calcium, providing between 250 mg and 400 mg per serving. (33) Individuals who are lactose intolerant or follow a strict plant-based diet may not get enough calcium from dietary sources. In these cases, supplementing with calcium may be necessary. (33)
Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin”, is a nutrient that can be synthesized by the body from sun exposure and obtained via food sources such as dairy products, eggs, and fish. (32) Trout and salmon are two of the top dietary sources of vitamin D, containing at least 570 IUs per three ounce serving. (32) Vitamin D is essential for proper calcium absorption and strong bones, particularly during adolescence. (41) In severe cases, vitamin D deficiency may lead to rickets, a condition characterized by soft bones. (15) Adolescents require 600 IU of vitamin D per day. (32) Fortunately, testing your vitamin D level is a relatively common test today that you can do via your general or integrative practitioner. If you suspect you may be deficient in vitamin D, consult your healthcare provider for proper testing and recommendations specific to your needs.
Men in their 20s
Many chronic health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, may result from poor nutrition and inactivity habits established in early adulthood. (8) Maintain your health and well-being by eating a healthy diet and by supplementing with nutrients commonly found in multivitamin supplements, if necessary.
Supplementing with a daily multivitamin can help fill gaps in your diet, particularly if you follow a diet that restricts food groups, such as a vegan or ketogenic diet. (6)(40) As needs vary based on life stage and gender, be sure to find a multivitamin specially formulated for men in your age group. Many multivitamins formulated for men exclude certain nutrients, such as iron, that are not required in the same quantities as for women. Your integrative healthcare practitioner can help you decide which multivitamin best suits your needs.
Upon reaching adulthood, male requirements for potassium increase from 3,000 mg to 3,400 mg per day. (34) Potassium is necessary for blood pressure regulation and healthy bone formation. It’s estimated that less than three percent of adults in North America consume adequate amounts of potassium. (48) Potassium is primarily obtained from plant-based foods, particularly potatoes, squash, beans, lentils, and of course, bananas, all of which contain more than 400 mg of potassium per serving. (34) Dried apricots provide 1,101 mg per half cup serving, making them one of the best sources of potassium. (34)
Men in their 30s and 40s
After age 30, men’s testosterone levels gradually decline by as much as one to two percent every year. (9) In fact, at least 40% of men over the age of 45 are considered to have low testosterone (below 300 ng/dL). (9) As testosterone levels drop, men may notice symptoms such as decreased stamina, weight gain, low energy levels, muscle loss, or decreased libido. (43) Eating a healthy diet, getting enough of a few key nutrients, and engaging in regular physical activity, can all help maintain testosterone levels. (19)
Zinc is an essential mineral necessary for proper cell division and immune support. (35) Research suggests that zinc also plays a role in men’s hormonal health. (11) Men over age 20 require 11 mg of zinc per day, which can be obtained from dietary sources such as beef, pork, oysters, lobster, pumpkin seeds, and certain fortified grains, all of which provide at least 3-5 mg per serving. (35) In men, zinc deficiency is associated with sexual health issues, including impotence and hypogonadism (insufficient testosterone production), as well as certain immune conditions. (35) If you don’t get enough zinc through dietary sources, a zinc supplement for men may improve testosterone levels. For example, one study found that supplementing with both zinc and magnesium increased free testosterone levels in male football players compared to the placebo group. (5)
Magnesium is essential for numerous bodily functions, including energy production and blood pressure regulation. (31) It’s estimated that 48% of American adults don’t consume enough magnesium. (31) Research has demonstrated that low magnesium levels are associated with some chronic health conditions, including cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. (14) Men in their 30s and 40s need 420 mg per day. Examples of foods that contain high amounts of magnesium (at least 60 mg per serving) include almonds, spinach, cashews, and legumes. (31)
Omega-3 fatty acids
Some clinical trials have demonstrated the protective effects of dietary omega-3s against cardiovascular disease. (25) Omega-3 fatty acids may help improve high-density lipoprotein levels (HDL) and lower triglyceride and blood pressure levels. (18) Some research suggests that omega-3 fish oil supplements may also exert heart health benefits. (25)
The adequate intake (AI) for omega-3 fatty acids, which describes the recommended intake for nutritional adequacy, is 1.6 g per day for adult men. Dietary sources that contain the highest levels of omega-3s include salmon, herring, flaxseed, and walnuts. (25) For example, each three-ounce serving of salmon provides 1.24 grams of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and 0.59 grams of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which are two types of omega-3 fatty acids. (25)
Men in their 50s and 60s
The risk for certain health conditions, particularly cardiovascular disease and vision problems, begins to increase in men aged 50 and up. (10)(38) Some nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, are among some of the best supplements for men over 50 and may help prevent cardiovascular disease and age-related eye conditions. (2)(22)
Omega-3 fatty acids
Not only do omega-3’s support heart health, but they may also help prevent age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of vision loss in older adults. One study of 2,275 participants over the age of 65 determined that eating fatty fish at least once per week lowered the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration by 53% compared to those who consumed fish less frequently. (2) As mentioned previously, adult men should aim to consume 1.6 g per day of omega-3s.
Antioxidants are nutrients responsible for protecting your cells from oxidative damage. They help by neutralizing ‘free radicals’, which are compounds produced during normal cell metabolism but are believed to play a role in the development of certain health conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. (23) Eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruit is an excellent way to increase antioxidant intake, including vitamin E, vitamin C, lycopene, and carotenoids. (23)
Research has demonstrated an association between increased dietary intake of antioxidants and a reduced risk of atherosclerosis (a cardiovascular condition characterized by the build-up of plaque in artery walls), but supplementing with antioxidants may also be beneficial. One study investigating the effects of lycopene supplementation on heart health found that following six weeks of supplementation, participants exhibited lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure. (22)(37) Further research suggests that supplementing with vitamin C (ascorbic acid) may improve endothelial function and reduce cardiovascular disease risk. (1)(42)
Did you know? The risk of heart disease increases with age. Men over age 65 are at the most significant risk for heart attack, stroke, or developing heart disease. (24)
Men in their 70s and beyond
Older adults are at a high risk of nutritional deficiency, often due to decreased activity levels, slower metabolism, reduced caloric needs, the use of medication, and other health conditions. Age-related loss of muscle mass and function, called sarcopenia, also contributes to a lower resting metabolic rate in adults. (17) Research has indicated that nutrient absorption and utilization decreases as individuals age. Furthermore, certain medications, such as proton-pump inhibitors and metformin, present undesired drug-nutrient interactions that may affect nutrient absorption. (16)(20)(21)
Adults over the age of 71 are at increased risk of vitamin D deficiency. This is likely because older men require nearly three times more sun exposure to synthesize the same amount of vitamin D as adolescents. (4)(39) After age 70, men’s daily requirement for vitamin D increases from 600 IU to 800 IU. (32)
Calcium absorption decreases with age, therefore, recommended intake levels increase from 1,000 mg to 1,200 mg per day for men 71 and over. (26) While the condition is more common in women, approximately five percent of men over 65 years of age are affected by osteoporosis. (7) Research has shown that supplementation of calcium and vitamin D together may prevent hip fractures in older men. (3)(49)
Vitamin B12 deficiency affects approximately 15% of adults over the age of 71. (4) The increased risk of deficiency may be attributed in part to a condition known as atrophic gastritis, which affects the secretion of hydrochloric acid in the stomach and consequently decreases the absorption of vitamin B12.
The RDA for adult men is 2.4 mcg of vitamin B12 per day. Vitamin B12 is found in animal and animal-derived foods, including seafood, beef, and dairy products, all of which contain at least 1 mcg of vitamin B12 per serving. Clams are among the best sources of dietary vitamin B12, providing 84 mcg per three ounce serving, which is equal to 3,504% of the RDA. (47) Dietary B12 intake may not be adequate for older adults, and supplemental B12 may be indicated when directed by a practitioner. (47)
Essential micronutrients for men’s health at any age
No matter your age, obtaining essential micronutrients is vital for all men. For optimal health, focus on eating nutrient-dense foods, such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, lean protein, fish, and whole grains. (44) The following graphic outlines some of the essential micronutrients and their sources.
The bottom line
Eating a diet rich in a variety of vegetables, fruits, healthy proteins, and other plant-based foods, while minimizing sugary, high-fat, and processed foods is the best approach to obtaining adequate amounts of essential nutrients. If your diet is less than ideal or you follow a restrictive diet, supplementing with certain nutrients may help address nutrient deficiencies and promote better health. If you’re a patient, consult your integrative healthcare practitioner before adding any supplements to your routine and to discuss the best vitamin supplements for men.
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