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June is National Men’s Health Month and Father’s Day is celebrated on June 16th. Thus, it is appropriate to talk about which dietary supplements are important for men’s health. The most important requirement for men of all ages is that they get the essential vitamins and minerals to meet their daily requirements. The National Academy of Sciences has set the Recommended Dietary Requirements (RDAs) for all vitamins and minerals according to sex and age. Men have different requirements from women and their requirements change with age.
Multivitamin-Mineral Supplements: Nutritionists recommend that we get our daily nutrient requirement from a balanced diet consisting of fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, lots of fluids, healthy oils, good proteins and whole grains. However, this is not always easy in our present-day lifestyle where we often eat on the run and we have more trouble adhering to a balanced diet. This is why it is important that men take a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement to ensure their daily nutrient requirements are met. Men should choose a supplement that contains 100% DV for all essential vitamins and minerals for their age. Supplements which contain levels much higher than 100% DV should be avoided with few exceptions. Men’s requirements increase after 65 years and they should select a senior supplement that has the higher levels. Men’s formulas differ from women in that they are much lower in iron which poses a great risk for heart disease in men. Formulas which are higher than 100% DV for vitamin A pose an increased risk of liver damage.
Calcium and Vitamin D: However, a daily multivitamin-mineral supplement is not enough. It is a myth that only women loose bone and risk developing osteoporosis. Men also loose bone with age, albeit at a much slower rate. Thus, men need to supplement their diets with extra calcium and more vitamin D that is in the multivitamin supplements. While the senior formulas for men contain 800 IU vitamin D this may not be sufficient to maintain the recommended blood levels of vitamin D. For this reason, a vitamin D supplement of 1,000 IU may be needed. If men do not consume a diet rich in dairy foods, they should also consume a daily calcium tablet. Often, a tablet containing both calcium and vitamin D should meet their needs.
Omega-3 Fats: Most adults do not get sufficient omega-3 fats in their diet unless they eat a lot of fatty fish. Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial to the heart of healthy people and those at high risk of cardiovascular disease. Research has demonstrated that omega-3 fatty acids (DHA +EPA) may decrease the risk of arrhythmias which can lead to sudden death as well as decrease triglycerides, slow growth of atherosclerotic plaque, and lower blood pressure (slightly). Most men could benefit from taking at least a 500 mg DHA+EPA fish oil capsule daily. The American Heart Association originally stated that eating two serving of fish (especially fatty fish) per week (approximately 1-gram DHA+EPA) can assist with secondary prevention of coronary heart disease (CHD) and sudden cardiac death in patients with prevalent CHD and patients with heart failure. Their later recommendation was broadened to include omega-3 fish oil supplements. Although their recommendations are for patients, men without CHD may also benefit. In order to lower elevated blood triglycerides higher doses of 1 to 4 grams of DHA+EPA/day will be needed.
Other Non-Dietary Supplements: The need for other supplements will depend on specific health conditions. Men at added risk of developing age-related macular degeneration may benefit from taking a supplement of lutein, zeaxanthin and omega-3 fatty acids. Men who have joint problems may benefit from taking a glucosamine sulfate or glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate supplement. A probiotic supplement will help maintain or restore a healthy intestinal flora. For men suffering from benign prostate hyperplasia a supplement of saw palmetto may benefit. A melatonin supplement may help normalize sleep patterns and even prevent jet lag under the proper conditions.
Summary: Men of all ages should supplement their diet with a complete multivitamin-mineral supplement appropriate for their age. In addition, men, especially with aging, should take additional vitamin D and calcium to prevent excessive bone loss. Men should also take omega-3 supplement to reduce their risk of coronary heart disease. Depending on health conditions, other supplements may be beneficial. It is always good practice to consult with your physician before taking supplements other than a multivitamin-mineral supplement, especially if you are on medications as some supplements interfere with medications.
James G. Elliott, Ph.D.
About the author - Dr. Elliott has been a clinical nutrition researcher in the food and nutritional supplement industries for over 40 years. During this time, Dr. Elliott has helped develop a number of the leading nutritional health products found on the market today.