Role of fatty acids and micronutrients in healthy ageing: a systematic review of randomised controlled trials set in the context of European dietary surveys of older adults

J Hum Nutr Diet. 2016 Jun;29(3):308-24. doi: 10.1111/jhn.12335. Epub 2015 Aug 18.


Background: Ageing is a multifaceted and inevitable process involving a decline in health and well-being that could be ameliorated by dietary modification. We review and discuss the evidence for nutritional interventions that may support healthy ageing.

Methods: The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines were used to identify randomised controlled trials investigating the role(s) of fatty acids and micronutrients in relation to markers of healthy ageing.

Results: European dietary surveys suggest that diets in elderly people are generally high in saturated fat, whereas intakes of vitamin D, magnesium, potassium, zinc and copper are below recommended levels. Thirty-four studies meeting the criteria were found, with 12 of these investigating the role of fatty acids and 22 considering intakes of micronutrients in relation to healthy ageing. Overall, these studies suggested that certain nutrients were consistent with healthy ageing; for example, omega-3 fatty acids were helpful for cognitive health, whereas combinations of calcium, vitamin D and K were linked with better bone health.

Conclusions: Vitamin, mineral and fatty acid intakes are in need of improvement to help elderly populations achieve optimal diet quality and support healthy ageing. This could involve the judicious use of supplements alongside dietary advice. Additional research is needed to determine optimal nutrient doses, combinations and forms in relation to desired health outcomes.

Keywords: minerals and trace elements; public health; systematic review; vitamins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Calcium, Dietary / administration & dosage
  • Copper / administration & dosage
  • Diet Surveys*
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Europe
  • Fatty Acids / physiology*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage
  • Health Promotion
  • Humans
  • Magnesium / administration & dosage
  • Micronutrients / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Potassium, Dietary / administration & dosage
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic*
  • Vitamin D / administration & dosage
  • Vitamin K / administration & dosage
  • Zinc / administration & dosage


  • Calcium, Dietary
  • Fatty Acids
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Micronutrients
  • Potassium, Dietary
  • Vitamin K
  • Vitamin D
  • Copper
  • Magnesium
  • Zinc