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Recommended Daily Allowance  
What is it and how did it get set?

Long ago when the British were sailing the seas, many sailors developed diseases like scurvy. It was eventually discovered scurvy and many other diseases were caused by poor nutrition on the ships. 

"Diet has always had a vital influence on health. Until as recently as the 1940's, diseases such as rickets, pellagra, scurvy, beriberi, xerophthalmia, and goiter (caused by lack of adequate dietary vitamin D, niacin, vitamin C, thiarnin, vitamin A, and iodine, respectively) were prevalent in this country and throughout the world. 

Today, thanks to an abundant food supply, fortification of some foods with critical trace nutrients, and better methods for determining and improving the nutrient content of foods, such "deficiency" diseases have been virtually eliminated in developed countries. For example, the introduction of iodized salt in the 1920's contributed greatly to eliminating iodine-deficiency goiter as a public health problem in the United States. Similarly, pellagra disappeared subsequent to the discovery of the dietary causes of this disease." (1)

The RDA was developed during World War II by Lydia J. Roberts, Hazel K. Stiebeling and Helen S. Mitchell under the auspices of the National Research Council. The National Research Council determined that a set of dietary standards were needed, especially given the possibility that rations would be needed during the war. The standards would be used for nutrition recommendations for the armed forces, for civilians, and for overseas population who might need food relief. Roberts, Stiebeling, and Mitchell surveyed all available data, created a tentative set of allowances, and submitted them to experts for review. The final set of allowances were accepted in 1941. The allowances were meant to provide superior nutrition for civilians and military personnel, so they included a "margin of safety."

In 1997, the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences did something dramatic: they changed the way nutritionists and nutrition scientists evaluate the diets of healthy people with the creation of the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs). Remember the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs)? From 1941 until 1989, the RDAs were established and used to evaluate and plan menus that would meet the nutrient requirements of groups as well as other applications such as interpreting food consumption records of populations, establishing standards for food assistance programs, establishing guidelines for nutrition labeling, to name a few. Their primary goal was to prevent diseases caused by nutrient deficiencies. Technically speaking, the RDAs were not intended to evaluate the diets of individuals, but they were often used this way.

Between 1941 and 1989, all of the RDA values were reviewed and published eleven times. Unlike past editions of the RDAs, the new DRI (Daily Reference Intake) values have been released in stages. The first report, Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Vitamin D and Fluoride, was published in 1997. Since then, seven additional reports have been released which address folate and other B vitamins, dietary antioxidants (vitamins C, E, selenium and the carotenoids), and the micronutrients (vitamins A, K, and trace elements such as iron, iodine, etc). 

The Recommended Daily Allowance (minimum daily requirement) did what it was suppose to do prevent rickets, pellagra, scurvy, beriberi, etc. But today instead of scurvy and night blindness, we have widespread degenerative diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, etc. 

Some interesting statistics:

bulletCancer -  born in 1970: 1 out of 3 - born 1870: 1 out of 33
bulletInfection - born in 1970: 1 out of 100 - born in 1870: 1 out 0f 2
bulletHeart Disease - born in 1970: 1 out of 2 - born in 1870: 1 out 7
bulletA 30 year old today has a 95% chance of getting Cancer, Heart disease, Stroke, Diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s arthritis, etc.

Of the 2.4 million deaths that occur in the United States each year, 75% are the result of avoidable nutritional factor diseases. - former U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. C. Everett Koop

Here’s a chart of the nutritional factor diseases cited by Dr. Koop. 

Almost all these diseases and many more are the result of nutritional deficiencies. Dr. Ray Strand MD stated that more than 70 of the degenerative diseases that all of us fear are the direct result of years of improper nutrition. 

What is here:

bulletMinimum Daily Amount vs Optimum Daily Amount - is there really a difference? What are the difference in levels of these vitamins and minerals? This link has a chart comparing the RDA to the optimum levels that scientists at the University of Alabama recommend called Suggested Optimal Nutrient Allowances or SONAs
bulletSpecific Vitamins VS Multi-Vitamins - Should you take just one multi-vitamin or supplement or individual ones?
 

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Some Definitions (to better understand this)

Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA):
the average daily dietary intake level that is sufficient to meet the nutrient requirement of nearly all (97 to 98 percent) healthy individuals in a particular life stage and gender group.

Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs): There are four types of DRI reference values: the Estimated Average Requirement (EAR), the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), the Adequate Intake (AI) and the Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL).

Adequate Intake (AI):
a recommended intake value based on observed or experimentally determined approximations or estimates of nutrient intake by a group (or groups) of healthy people, that are assumed to be adequate—used when an RDA cannot be determined.

Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL):
the highest level of daily nutrient intake that is likely to pose no risk of adverse health effects for almost all individuals in the general population. As intake increase above the UL, the potential risk of adverse effects increases.

Estimated Average Requirement (EAR):
a daily nutrient intake value that is estimated to meet the requirement of half of the healthy individuals in a life stage and gender group—used to assess dietary adequacy and as the basis for the RDA.

Suggested Optimal Nutrient Allowances (SONA) scientists at the University of Alabama worked this out for every nutrient then called the amounts Suggested Optimal Nutrient Allowances or SONAs.

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Dietary Reference Intakes Reports Timeline (as published by the Food and Nutrition Board)
bullet1997: Calcium and related nutrients (Phosphorous, Magnesium, Vitamin D, Fluoride)
bullet1998: Folate and other B Vitamins, including Choline
bullet2000: Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, and Carotenoids (Antioxidant Report)
bullet2000: Dietary Reference Intakes: Applications in Dietary Assessment
bullet2001: Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc (Micronutrients)
bullet2002: Macronutrients (dietary fat, individual fatty acids [omega-3 and omega-6, trans fatty acids], protein, amino acids, cholesterol, carbohydrates, simple sugars, dietary fiber, energy intake, and energy expenditure)
bullet2003: Electrolytes (sodium, potassium, chloride, and sulfate) and water
bullet2005: Bioactive compounds, e.g., phytoestrogens and other phytochemicals, carnitine
bullet2005: Role of alcohol in health and disease

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Links:

bulletMinimum Daily Amount vs Suggested Optimal Nutrient Allowances or SONAs
bullet Dietary Reference Intakes: Recommended Intakes for Individuals  (Table PDF|87 KB) National Academy of Sciences. Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board.
bullet Dietary Reference Intakes: Elements  (Table PDF|1.4 MB) National Academy of Sciences. Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board.
bullet Dietary Reference Intakes: Vitamins  (Table PDF|1.3 MB) National Academy of Sciences. Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board.
bullet Food Labeling and Nutrition DHHS. FDA. Center for Food Safety & Applied Nutrition.

Footnotes:

bullet(1) The Surgeon General's Report on NUTRITION AND HEALTH - Year 2000 - C.Everett Koop, M.D., Sc.D.

This page was last updated on Friday, January 09, 2009

 

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