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Supplements To Not Take After 50, Pharmacist Warns

Avoid these supplements after 50, experts say. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

When it comes to supplements, there's so much buzz around the so-called benefits, but many aren't as healthy as they're hyped up to be. In fact, some supplements can actually cause harm and dangerous side effects, especially for people over 50. Age can matter with supplements and experts share why and which ones to avoid. As always, please consult with your physician for medical advice. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Why Age Matters When Taking Supplements

memory exercises

According to Becca Rhoades, PharmD, Pharmacist at Ella Community Pharmacy and Balpreet Gill, PharmD Candidate 2023, "With age potentially comes more health conditions that need treatment for a longer duration, such as heart diseases, high cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes, etc. Age can also impact the way medicines are absorbed and excreted from the body. Most oral medications and supplements involve the liver to break down the medication and help it metabolize to active drug forms. The liver tends to slow down as we age, and the enzymes might need longer to metabolize the drug particles. Additionally, medications get eliminated through the kidneys, which slow down a little with age. The more medications someone takes, the more they might be at risk for drug interactions and side effects. To learn about any interactions between supplements and prescription medications, or to learn about side effects associated with a new supplement, it is important to reach out to your health care provider before initiating any over-the-counter supplements."


Ginkgo Biloba

taking vitamin

Dr. Rhoades explains, "Ginkgo biloba is a natural tree extract commonly used for memory problems. However, there are a lot of medication interactions with Ginkgo. These interactions could change how the liver breaks down certain medications, potentially impacting the effects and side effects of these medications. Ginkgo can also increase blood sugar levels making diabetes medications less effective, potentially slow blood clotting, and could interfere with the anticoagulants used to reduce heart issues. Due to the above interactions, talk to your physician or pharmacist before starting Ginkgo."


Iron Supplements

taking vitamin

Dr. Rhoades says, "Iron is an important mineral necessary for life functions. Iron is recommended for menstruating women because iron is shed from the body during menstruation. When that process stops around age 50, iron isn't as easily lost. However, it can be easy to build up more iron by taking supplements. Excess iron in the body may contribute to heart problems, cancer, and liver damage. Only take iron supplements if prescribed by a physician."


Vitamin A i.e., Retinol


Dr. Rhoades states, "Vitamin A is an important nutrient for normal vision, the immune system, and growth and development. Many people take OTC eye health supplements that contain vitamin A as their primary ingredient. While it might be helpful to supplement with vitamin A for short-term use, long-term high-dose vitamin A can cause bone thinning, liver damage, skin irritation, and pain in joints and bones. It is best to talk to your physician or pharmacist before adding vitamin A supplements to your everyday diet."


St. John's Wort

Fresh St. John's wort flowers in a bowl, top view

Dr. Rhoades and Gill tell us, "St. John's wort is a flowering shrub native to Europe. This shrub contains an active ingredient called hyperforin, which claims to have the benefits of reducing depression and menopausal symptoms. While some studies have shown the effectiveness of using St. John's wort, this supplement contains a list of interactions that should be considered before starting. Examples of interacting drug classes include benzodiazepines, warfarin, antidepressants, certain statins, omeprazole, some chemotherapy drugs, and Narcotics. Avoid using St. John's wort if you have not consulted with your doctor or pharmacist."

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather