Good news for American guys: The life-expectancy gap has narrowed, to 76.7 years for men and 81.3 years for women. Still, men tend to use and abuse their bodies—working and playing hard (often under stress), grabbing a burger or pizza rather than planning nutritious meals, ducking doctor’s appointments.
But with age, the stakes rise for common men’s health conditions: cardiovascular disease, prostate cancer, high blood pressure and stroke, skin cancer, and diabetes. Along with diet and lifestyle upgrades, these key supplements can fill in nutritional shortfalls and support wellness and vitality in men, especially those 40 and older.
This group of water-soluble vitamins helps turn food into energy in the body, among other important functions. Under stress, the body uses more of these vitamins, so taking a high-quality B-complex supplement may improve energy levels. Studies show B vitamins also can lower homocysteine levels, possibly reducing heart attack and stroke risk. Because B12 is found in meat, shellfish, milk, and eggs, vegans may benefit from taking a supplement, as may some people over age 50, who develop trouble absorbing B12 from food.
Dose: Choose a supplement with up to 50 mg each of vitamins B1, B2, and B3. Amounts of other B vitamins tend to be relatively consistent in supplements.
Working more omega-3 fatty acids into a balanced diet—by eating fatty fish such as wild salmon and supplementing with fish oil—is one of the healthiest things a man can do. Researchers believe fish oil helps lower heart disease risk through several mechanisms: It mildly thins the blood, helps prevent arrhythmias, lowers triglyceride and homocysteine levels, and protects the cardiovascular system from inflammation.
And in a 2011 study, a low-fat diet plus a hefty 5-gram daily dose of fish oil slowed prostate cancer cell proliferation in patients awaiting surgery. Another new study found that in healthy young people, fish oil lowered not only inflammation markers, but also anxiety.
Dose: Depending on your risk factors, take 360–800 mg EPA and 100–500 mg DHA daily.
A carotenoid found in tomatoes, papaya, and other reddish foods, lycopene appears to increase antioxidant activity in the body, protecting against DNA damage, according to a recent study. The study also indicated that lycopene lowered heart disease risk factors like hypertension and C-reactive protein (CRP). Some research links high lycopene blood levels with protection against prostate and other cancers; eating lycopene-rich tomato paste also appears to protect against UV skin damage.
Dose: 10–30 mg lycopene daily. (And eat more tomato paste.)
Together with calcium and vitamin D, this multitasking mineral supports strong bones. It may also regulate blood pressure and keep inflammation at bay (low magnesium levels have been linked to elevated CRP levels). A 2010 study found supplementing with magnesium reduced men’s colon cancer risk by 52 percent. Bonus: It can promote relaxation and restful sleep.
Dose: Start with 250 mg of chelated magnesium form; consider choosing a liquid or powder for better absorption.
Despite a flood of recent research news, many people still have inadequate levels of this critical vitamin, which supports bone and muscle strength and bolsters immune function. In several studies, low blood levels of vitamin D have been associated with increased heart disease risk.
Dose: 800–2,000 IU (or greater) D3 daily to reach optimum blood levels. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, a safe, adequate blood level is 30 ng/mL; the Vitamin D Council recommends around 50 ng/mL or higher. Because D is fat soluble, you might want to get your levels tested twice a year and modify your dose accordingly.
It’s a good idea to talk to your health care provider before starting a new supplement.