Do we need supplements as we grow older?

//Do we need supplements as we grow older?

Our bodies need an “orchestra” of nutrients to stay well and healthy. (123RF)

Our bodies need an “orchestra” of nutrients to stay well and healthy. (123RF)

Many people say that supplements are not needed, since we get all we need from our food. There are studies showing that some supplements, like calcium and vitamin D, when taken in isolation and in the dosages studied, do not prevent bone fractures. The conclusion is often that they are a waste of money.

What is the real story?

This year, I will write each month about one aspect of supplements and why they are, or why they are not, of value.

Supplements and nutritional supplements are substances that get added to our food, or that we take separately to improve our wellbeing.

Ideally our food would contain all the nutrients we need, and historically this was mostly the case. Our bodies need an “orchestra” of nutrients to stay well and healthy. When key players in the orchestra of nutrition are missing, the concert sounds awful — that means for our bodies that we will get sick. As food becomes more and more processed, nutrient density is lost. That means that we get more calories without getting more nutrients. Over time the government was forced to add certain nutrients to certain foods to avoid deficiencies. An example is the “enrichment” of white flour with small amounts of Niacin to avoid beriberi, or the addition of iodine to table salt to avoid goiters.

Often these small amounts of isolated nutrients are not enough to keep us healthy though. In addition, some people have a genetic disposition that requires additional amounts of certain nutrients.

At the same time in our modern world, the agricultural sector was industrialized, which means that more and more artificial fertilizers were used (which are deficient by nature in trace minerals and other substances) and more toxic substances (pesticides and herbicides) were added.

On the other hand, there is a natural tendency as we get older for our enzymes to slow down somewhat, especially when it comes to metabolizing our food into necessary nutrients for the body. Our bodies are also often exposed to multiple pharmaceutical drugs, which can inhibit the absorption or transformation of necessary nutrients. Our gut flora (microbiomes) can be damaged by toxins, antibiotics and lack of fibre and pre-biotics, which in turn causes food allergies and inflammation.

We have a perfect storm. This, together with lack of daily movement, causes the modern degenerative diseases of aging.

In the next months, I will show you a few of the key players in the orchestra of nutrients. Please contact me for help composing your own “symphony.”

A native of Newfoundland, Christine Faour grows lavender on her hobby farm in Coldbrook. After a lifetime spent teaching, she now spends her time knitting, quilting, making things from lavender and writing about her take on life at She has one book, Eat Where You Are, a memoir in recipes.