Vitamin supplementation therapy in the elderly

Drugs Aging. 1997 Dec;11(6):433-49. doi: 10.2165/00002512-199711060-00003.


Vitamin supplementation in large dosages is increasingly common in the older population. Often, such supplementation is used in an attempt to improve an individual's health status. There have been claims that the effects of vitamins halt the normal aging process or prevent and cure disease. However, several recent studies have failed to demonstrate the efficacy of vitamin supplementation in preventing several types of cancer. In moderate dosages, supplementation with vitamin E (tocopherols) shows promise as a lipid antioxidant, and may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. However, before vitamin E becomes an accepted medical therapy, further long term studies must be undertaken to examine the safety and efficacy of such therapy. An adequate intake of vitamins should be ensured by adherence to a well balanced diet. However, the elderly are prone to circumstances that may prevent them from eating a balanced diet. In addition, there are several age-related medical conditions that may predispose individuals to dietary and vitamin deficiencies. To prevent vitamin deficiency diseases and their associated morbidity, modest vitamin supplementation may be necessary. However, supplementation should be reserved for individuals with documented deficiency or who are at risk of developing such deficiencies, especially those who are homebound or institutionalised. Vitamins taken in large dosages should be considered as drugs. These medicines, which are obtainable over-the-counter, should be carefully regulated to prevent toxicity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / drug effects
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use
  • Ascorbic Acid / therapeutic use
  • Avitaminosis / drug therapy
  • Carotenoids / therapeutic use
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Drug Interactions
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Retinoids / therapeutic use
  • Vitamin B Complex / therapeutic use
  • Vitamin D / therapeutic use
  • Vitamin E / therapeutic use
  • Vitamin K / therapeutic use
  • Vitamins / adverse effects
  • Vitamins / therapeutic use*


  • Antioxidants
  • Retinoids
  • Vitamins
  • Vitamin B Complex
  • Vitamin K
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Carotenoids
  • Ascorbic Acid