Seniors are constantly bombarded with recommendations for dietary supplements. Whether it’s potassium, calcium, or vitamin A, there is always a supplement that can give it to you quickly. However, while many seniors do need more of certain vitamins and minerals as they age, supplements may not always be the answer. Studies show that supplements do more harm than good in certain cases. Here are a few of these potentially harmful supplements that you should carefully consider before adding to your diet.


Creatine is commonly used among athletes and body builders and is believed to help increase lower-body mass. Physicians, however, caution seniors against using creatine, especially those who have kidney or liver problems or diabetes. Creatine has been linked to kidney damage, and it can have other negative side effects, like nausea, anxiety, and weight gain.


Many seniors, especially women, are advised to increase their calcium intake. Since bones often deteriorate as we age, having a calcium-rich diet is essential to staying strong and mobile. However, while adding calcium-rich foods to your diet helps, calcium supplements may not. Recent studies showed that there is little evidence that calcium supplements prevent fractures in healthy women. Older bodies do not absorb the supplements well, and in some cases rather than strengthening bones, the calcium hardens on artery walls, causing heart attacks and cardiovascular disease.


Yohimbe is the name of a type of evergreen tree found in parts of Africa. A chemical in the bark, called yohimbine, is used to make various medicines. It is frequently used for erectile dysfunction, weight loss, and to regulate blood pressure. Despite its natural origins, this supplement is not necessarily safe. Yohimbe has been linked to irregular heartbeat, kidney failure, seizure, and heart attack.

Soy Isolate

Though products like veggie burgers and tofu dogs boast their soy contents, what they likely contain is a processed soy-derivative called soy protein isolate (SPI). SPI, unlike pure soy, can have an estrogen effect on men, which can lead to male breast formation, and it is also linked to allergies, thyroid problems, and even brain damage. To avoid this, it’s best to eat soy in its natural form. Organic tofu and whole soybeans are rich in nutrients and can even lower LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol.

Folate and Folic Acid

Folate and folic acid are types of a water-soluble B vitamin. Folate occurs naturally in food and folic acid is an artificial form of it. You typically find folic acid listed as an added ingredient in cold cereals, breads, crackers, etc. Folic acid is often used to treat folate deficiency and anemia (one of the results of low folate levels), and to prevent kidney disease and even birth defects. While folic acid supplements taken in small doses may be beneficial, they can be dangerous when taken long term or in higher dosages. Folic acid can have a wide range of risks, including anemia, heart disease, dementia, and cancer.


While some dietary supplements are necessary, seniors should be careful before self-prescribing or taking any supplement for a long period of time. Before adding dietary supplement to their diets, seniors should consult with their primary care physician. It’s best to receive your vitamins and minerals through your daily meals; however, when this isn’t possible, always consult your doctor before beginning a supplement regimen.