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Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is too low

Updated on January 26, 2013

Have you looked at the percentages of your daily multi-vitamin? By the way, doctors say that we should be taking multi-vitamins.

Often the percentages shows number above 100% of "recommended daily allowance". Does that mean that we are taking more than the recommended amount? Are we over-dosing on vitamin?

The answer is no and no. It is okay for the percentages to go above 100%. And in many cases, it should be above 100%. Even at above 100%, you are still far away from the over-dose level.

And here is why ...

Dr. Khalsa says ...

Dharma Singh Khalsa says this his book Brain Longevity ...

"One quick word about the so-called Recommended Daily Allowances: Nonsense! I believe they're just too low. These daily allowances, until recently, where called "Minimum Daily Requirements." But then someone with a good sense of public relations realized that most people want more than just the "minimum." So they changed "Minimum" to "Recommended" -- but still left the amount at approximately the same low levels. ... It is true that a few vitamins, taken in gross excess, can cause health problems. Extremely high amounts of vitamin A can be toxic (although I have never spoken to a physician who has actually seen this occur). When you compare the safety of vitamins to the safety of pharmaceutical drugs, however, it's easy to see that drugs are far more dangerous." [page 243]

That is because for the most part, vitamins that you take are the same stuff that is already in your body. Pharmaceutical drugs, on the other hand, are foreign human-engineered chemicals. That's different. That is why FDA regulates prescription drugs, but they don't regulate vitamins.

Dr. Hyman says ...

Dr. Mark Hyman writes in The UltraMind Solution that ...

"The old model of nutrition is based on providing the minimum amount of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to prevent deficiency diseases. ... The current dietary reference intakes (DRIs), or the amount of nutrients we are told is safe and desirable by the government, are based on this out-dated concept. ... taking just enough of a vitamin to avoid deficiency diseases doesn't give you nearly enough of that vitamin to achieve optimal health." [page 120-121]

In the below video, he says that ...

"In fact, the government nutritional guidelines ignore that fact that many American, because of genetic variations and unique needs may need higher doses of vitamins and minerals than the minimum RDA."

Joe Graedon of People's Pharmacy voice a similar view on an April 2008 radio broadcast "The Sound of Ideas" which you can hear around the 7 minute mark.

Did you know that to be optimally healthy, we need 25 times the amount of vitamin D than the government recommends. This is according to Dr. Mark Hyman's article in

In the book Ultraprevention, it says ...

"The RDA system was based on what was needed to prevent the deficiencies associated with disease, rather than on a model to create health. ... vitamins in excess of the minimum recommended amounts have a significant role in preventing chronic disease." [Liponis, Mark; Hyman, Mark, M.D. (2003-09-16). Ultraprevention (p. 123). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition.]

Dr. Weil says ...

Is it true that the recommended dietary amounts are outdated? Katie Couric of the "Today" show asked Dr. Andrew Weil just that question. You can hear his answer in the video linked here (at 5 minutes into the video).

Basically Dr. Weil says that they are outdated and in many cases you body will do better with more. You just have to do your homework as to the optimal amount that you should take.

In another article, I explain how to choose a multi-vitamin.

Dr. Oz says ...

Dr. Oz (as in the Dr. Oz show) says in this video that he thinks that many manufactures of multi-vitamin put too little vitamin D.

If that is the case, you can add a vitamin D supplement with the multi-vitamin so that the combined is at least 1000 IU to 1200 IU.

Up to 2000 IU is still considered safe.

Vitamin D is one of the most important vitamins to take.

RDA compared with Paleolithic Intake

There is a nice chart in the book Primal Body, Primal Mind in which it compared the nutrient intake of hunter-gatherers in the Paleolithic era with the RDA value and with the current US intake. You can see that the RDA value is much less that what people in the Paleolithic era ate. And what the US population is consuming is even less than that. For example...

Vitamin E:
Paleolithic Intake: 33 mg
RDA: 8-10 mg
US Intake: 7-10 mg

Paleolithic Intake: 700 mg
RDA: 350 mg
US Intake: 250 mg

Paleolithic Intake: 10,500 mg
RDA: 3,500 mg
US Intake: 2,500 mg

And many other examples from page 18 of Primal Body, Primal Mind based on Eaton, S. B. et al. 1997 "Paleolithic nutrition revisted: twelve year retrospective on its nature and implications"European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 51: 207-16.

RDI's replaced RDA's

In around 1990s, RDI's (Reference Daily Intake) started to replace RDA's. RDI's represent average values to prevent nutritional deficiency diseases. Different individuals may need more or less of certain vitamins. And the RDI's are not the optimum amounts.

Nevertheless, many people are still have a hard time achieving the adequate RDI values from food alone. Part of the reason is that our foods are now grown in nutrient depleted soils and some nutritional value are lost during the transport, storage, processing, and even cooking of the foods.

You can find DRI values based on body size and age at the Interactive DRI page of the US Department of Agriculture website.

The authors of the book The Real Vitamin and Mineral Book writes...

"However, it is virtually impossible to meet the RDIs by eating the food available to us today. As a clinician who sees real people, I know how impractical and mis-leading the typical well-balanced diet explained in nutrition handbooks can be." [page 19]

People can have a deficiency even without overt symptoms. These conditions are known as "subclinical deficiencies". The author writes ...

"State-of-the-art biochemistry shows that classic, overt deficiency symptoms, like those of beriberi, are merely the last event in a long chain of re-actions in the body" [page 31]

This is because the deficiencies occur at a molecular and cellular level. When we don't consume enough vitamins, our vitamin stores become depleted. This later depletes the enzymes that depends on those vitamins. Then, certain cellular reactions that depends on those enzymes are not able to take place. If that state is prolonged or severe enough, then function is compromised. But before then, subclinical deficiencies may not be easily detected in routine medical checkups.

That is why many doctors recommends taking vitamins. Most adult should take at least a multivitamin. As mentioned in the book UltraPrevention ...

"80 percent of Americans are not getting even the RDA of one or more of the essential vitamins, minerals, or other nutrients." [page 177]

Think of the multivitamin as a basic foundation. Then you can add additional supplementation based on your individual needs.

The authors of the book Stop Prediabetes Now say that for certain conditions, one can add certain additional supplements on top of the multivitamin and that ...

"These amounts are much higher than the government's recommended daily amounts, but we believe those official amounts are unreasonably low." (page 211)

Although, one does have to be careful about too much iron, copper, and vitamin A. For those, you should keep within the RDI amounts.


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