We continue on from out last post to delve into more common problems of nutrition in seniors. Three more common deficiencies that often I run into are: vitamin D, vitamin B12 and magnesium. These deficiencies often creep up and add to the burden of aging. Improving the intake may help with some of the aches and pains of aging. While I am harping on nutrition, I also see people can getting overly focused on optimizing diet details . A wholistic approach is needed when it comes to food. Food in more than just nutrition, it also is central in culture, socializing and enjoyment which are equally valuable when it comes to our health. 

The Sunshine Vitamin

Vitamin D is naturally produced with exposure to sunlight. However many Canadians are deficient, particularly in the winter with our limited sun exposure. Beyond bone health, vitamin D has an important role in muscle function, immune function,  mental health and overall wellness. Vitamin D has been shown to play a role in fall prevention, in some cases reducing the fall risk by as much as 22%

Aside from becoming a snowbird and spending the winter in Arizona, increasing vitamin D intake year round is a good idea. It is pretty hard to overdose on vitamin D. As one endocrinologist told me, you could swim in it. During the pandemic, a lot of facilities have resorted to giving 50 000 units monthly rather than administering daily. Enriched dairy products and fatty fish are sources of vitamin D. Otherwise supplements are an easy way to get enough vitamin D.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, plays an important role in keeping our nerves, blood and brain working. A lack of vitamin B12 can be a factor in pain, weakness, fatigue and cognition.  As we age, absorption of vitamin B12 decreases. Without enough cobalamin, we cannot make enough blood and that leads to weakness and fatigue. Our nerves need it to make myelin, the insulation around nerve fibres critical for conducting messages properly across our body.

Deficiencies can commonly lead to:

  • Peripheral neuropathy – loss of sensation particularly in the feet or burning/tingling sensations.
  • Ataxia – the loss of balance and coordination
  • Cognitive Decline – slower processing 
  • Vision Decline – blurred vision

Natural sources of B12 are fish, meat, poultry and eggs. If these are lacking in the diet, talk to your health care provider about testing for vitamin B12 if you think it may be an issue. B12 can also be easily supplemented with an over the counter supplement. 


This unsung hero is involved in over 300 bodily functions, including managing blood sugar levels and blood pressure, as well as maintaining muscle and nerve function. As we age, our magnesium levels can drop, and this deficiency can be linked to a host of issues like muscle cramps, fatigue, insomnia and even heart problems. 

The good news? Magnesium is found in delicious foods like nuts, seeds, whole grains, and leafy green vegetables. So, it’s an easy fix with a few dietary tweaks or even a supplement in a bottle. However be careful with supplements as too much magnesium can also lead to diarrhea. Again, it’s important to talk to your doctor or health care provider to discuss what is appropriate for you or your loved one. 

As I emphasize the importance of nutrition, I am also aware of the tendency to become too fixated on perfecting dietary specifics. It’s crucial to adopt a holistic perspective towards food. Food is not merely a source of nutrition; it’s integral to our culture, social interactions, and pleasure, all of which are equally important for our health. It’s unlikely seniors will make significant dietary changes at this stage in their lives. However, carefully chosen adjustments could enhance their quality of life.

“Old people shouldn’t eat health foods. They need all the preservatives they can get.” – Robert Orben

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