EC: Micronutrient supplementation for elderly not backed (for now)

“At this stage, the current evidence is not sufficient or strong enough to support the use of vitamin and mineral supplementation to improve health in the elderly.”

Evidence is lacking to support vitamin and mineral supplementation’s role in active healthy ageing (AHA) “at this stage”  an EC report has concluded. But it did not rule out their role completely.

The report from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) arrived at its conclusions even as EU-approved health claims for the same vitamins and minerals suggested cognitive and other benefits.

While the report acknowledged, micronutrient deficiency is a common problem in older adults”, the JRC said: “At this stage, the current evidence is not sufficient or strong enough to support the use of vitamin and mineral supplementation to improve health in the elderly.”

It added: “It does not follow that supplementation is not effective; there are many possible explanations for the lack of effects seen in the studies reviewed.”

Foods or food supplements?

Aside from vitamins and minerals, the report looked at various dietary inputs like probiotics, prebiotics, resveratrol, antioxidants, catechins, protein, fat and carbohydrates and takes the position that while deficiencies are common, “natural food sources” are better than food supplements to make up the shortfall.

The Mediterranean diet – rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, seafood, whole grains, mono-unsaturated fats and low in meat and dairy – is commended as an example of a nutritionally successful whole food diet.

“Indeed, the evidence from Mediterranean diet as a whole diet approach to promote health, increase longevity, and reduce the risks of a range age-related diseases risks supports this in a number of observational studies.”

The report emphasises various AHA research gaps, “to quantify AHA outcomes including the quality of diet, fitness, and well-being in older people.”

“Above all, there is a need to provide better guidance on diet and nutrition for older population and a set of age-specific, up-to-date dietary recommendations is essential to achieve this.”

The report is here.

European supplement trade groups were not available for comment at the time of publication.

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