Male and female bodies are different.
There are a variety of differences between men and women in terms of the nutrients their bodies use, particularly in relation to reproduction. For example, in women, particularly those of childbearing age, being deficient in iron is more common than it is in men. Women may also have to think more about taking in enough calcium than men typically do.
Sex aside, “both men and women are typically low in key vitamins like vitamin D, the B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids and magnesium,” says Dr. Rajsree Nambudripad, an integrative medicine specialist with Providence St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton, California.
This is why she recommends a daily multivitamin for most of her patients, but she notes, “men are rarely low in iron, compared to menstruating women, and excess iron is inflammatory, so I make sure men take a multivitamin without iron,” Nambudripad says.
Aging bodies may need more nutrients.
The age of the individual is a key factor for nutrient intake, says Matthew Black, a registered dietitian with the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus. He notes that while there aren’t “any specific vitamins or minerals that physiologic males would be more likely to be deficient in than women, research suggests that aging, in general, is associated with decreased vitamin consumption, which could lead to deficiencies.”
He points to a study that estimates that 50% of older adults have a vitamin and mineral intake less than the recommended daily intake (RDI), and that 10% to 30% have subnormal levels of vitamins and minerals. “Therefore, deficiencies could be associated with changes in eating habits in addition to increased requirements associated with aging.”
He also notes that “as physiological males age, the RDI for certain vitamins and minerals increases, which could place one at risk for being deficient if or when they’re unable to maintain optimal intakes.”
That need is compounded by changes to how the body absorbs nutrients with age.
Mohammed Elamir, an internal medicine physician with Aviv Clinics in The Villages, Florida, says that “as we age, our ability to absorb nutrients decreases. A multivitamin approved for your age should be taken with food (specifically with some good fat) to help absorption. All other supplements should depend on your specific needs.”
Here are 9 vitamins men may want to consider adding, depending on your age and medical needs.
Advancing age often brings excess weight, and potentially, insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes. “This is when I recommend berberine supplement to help activate their insulin receptors,” Nambudripad says.
Berberine is an alkaloid compound that’s found in several shrubs in the Berberis genus, including golden seal and tree turmeric. It’s long been used in Chinese medicine to treat various ailments, and studies have shown that it may help control blood sugar, reduce cholesterol levels and support weight loss efforts.
2. Coenzyme Q10
Blood pressure can also become an issue with age. To help combat this common problem, Nambudripad recommends coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10.
CoQ10 is an antioxidant that may reduce blood pressure and symptoms of congestive heart failure. CoQ10 supplements are generally regarded as safe with few side effects, but you should be sure to discuss using them beforehand with your doctor.
3. Methyl-B complex
If you’re suffering from a lot of stress or anxiety, a methyl-B complex — a type of B-vitamin complex supplement that provides eight essential B vitamins along with folate, choline and inositol — could help, Nambudripad says. “It helps boost up the brain neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which help with mood.”
One study found that participants who took a methyl-B complex supplement had “significant and more continuous improvements in depressive and anxiety symptoms, compared to placebo.”
Prescription medications can also lead some men to need supplementation later in life, Nambudripad says. If you’re on multiple prescriptions, it may be worth looking into a methyl-B complex and a CoQ10 supplement “since many prescription medications deplete these nutrients from the body.”
4. Magnesium and calcium
Proton-pump inhibitor medications are another to watch out for. These are used to suppress stomach acid and reduce symptoms of heartburn and GERD, and “can interfere with absorption of B vitamins, magnesium and calcium, so these should be supplemented” if you’re taking a proton-pump inhibitor, Nambudripad says.
5. Saw palmetto
As they get older, “some men develop prostate enlargement (benign prostatic hypertrophy or BPH), or they develop male pattern baldness,” Nambudripad notes. “The supplement saw palmetto helps with both of these conditions since it blocks testosterone converting to dihydrotestosterone, or DHT, which is the cause of prostate enlargement or male pattern baldness.”
Maintaining testosterone levels is one thing. However, Black warns that if you’re reaching for a supplement that’s noted as a “T-booster” or testosterone booster (which may or may not contain saw palmetto), be careful. “One study conducted in 2018 investigated the top five T-boosters sold on Amazon and revealed that ‘limited human studies have evaluated T-Boosters, resulting in no definitive findings of efficacy.’ Likewise, other studies have found these over the counter T-boosters can also pose a risk to one’s health by causing acute kidney and liver injuries.”
6. Fish oil
Nambudripad encourages male patients to take 25 milligrams of zinc daily, as that “helps with testosterone production, preventing testosterone conversion to estrogen and for immune health.”
But be careful not to overdo it, Black cautions. “According to one study from the National Institutes of Health, intakes of 150 to 450 milligrams of zinc per day have been associated with such chronic effects as low copper status, altered iron function, reduced immune function and reduced levels of high-density lipoproteins.”
He adds that even moderately high intakes of zinc of about 60 milligrams per day for up to 10 weeks have also been associated with low copper status.
8. Vitamin D3
“Depending on sun exposure and your vitamin D levels, I like to provide an exact recommendation on the dose of vitamin D3 to take,” Nambudripad says.
Black notes that you should not exceed the UL of 100 micrograms daily of vitamin D.
9. A daily multivitamin
Black notes that with a well-planned diet, it’s entirely possible to meet 100% of your DRI without use of multivitamins. But many people do add a daily multivitamin. For those over age 50, “starting vitamin and mineral supplementation may prove beneficial in the long run.”
Elamir agrees that while getting your vitamins through food is best, “I would recommend a daily multivitamin.”
If you’re using a multivitamin, Nambudripad recommends choosing one that does not contain iron.
And Black recommends selecting one that “meets 100% of DRIs for vitamins and minerals but does not exceed the establish ULs,” which are the tolerable upper intake levels for each nutrient included in the supplement. “The term UL is defined as the highest average daily nutrient intake level likely to pose no risk of adverse health effects to almost all individuals in the general population,” he explains.
Remember, supplements aren’t regulated.
Any discussion of supplements should include a big warning that the supplement industry is not regulated by the FDA, and thus, it’s not always clear what you’re getting when you buy a product. “The potency of ingredients and accuracy of labels are sometimes inaccurate, which could pose a potential threat to one’s health, and purported health claims typically aren’t backed by sufficient research,” Black says.
Additionally, he says it’s important to “beware of supplements containing ‘proprietary blends,’ in which the quantities of each individual ingredient are not disclosed and contain names of ingredients, which are unfamiliar to most. A proprietary blend may also be referred to as a ‘blend,’ ‘matrix,’ ‘proprietary formulation’ or ‘complex,’ in which the specific amount of each individual ingredient doesn’t have to be listed. Instead, only the total combined weight in the blend must be provided.”
Be careful with your doses.
Black also cautions against taking in super high levels of any vitamin, particularly those that are fat-soluble, such as vitamins A, D, E and K.
“Mega-dosing fat-soluble vitamins could lead to toxicities, if taken in excess of established ULs, and excessive intakes of water-soluble vitamins leads to urinary excretion of the amount the body could not absorb. Either scenario could be a concern with certain health conditions related to liver or kidney function.”
Select food first.
“Getting the right balance of food sources can help either prevent or decrease the need for supplementation,” Black says. So, try to meet your needs through food first.
If you do choose a supplement, Elamir notes that you shouldn’t “look for a quick-fix, one-size-fits-all answer through supplements. There’s no magic pill that will replace good lifestyle choices. A well-balanced diet will prevent the need for exogenous vitamins and supplements.”
Get individualized advice.
While it’s easy to lump all women or all men into a single category, it’s best to consider your individual needs. Your specific nutrients will vary based on your age, sex, medical conditions, fitness levels and other factors.
In all cases, Nambudripad recommends working with your health care provider for tailored advice for your situation. “It’s best for men to go in for a thorough physical and blood work and get a doctor’s personalized guidance to know what vitamins are best for them. Sometimes seeing an integrative medicine provider is helpful to get more guidance on supplements.”
And Black adds that if your visit with a health care provider does identify nutrient deficiencies, “you can request consultation with a registered dietitian for further guidance in how to not only correct these deficiencies, but to maintain appropriate levels and identify potential long-term supplementation needs.”
9 vitamins and minerals men should consider taking:
2. Coenzyme Q10.
3. Methyl-B complex.
4. Magnesium and calcium.
5. Saw palmetto.
6. Fish oil supplements.
8. Vitamin D3.
9. A daily multivitamin without iron.
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