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Sunday, July 29, 2007

When it comes to vitamins and minerals, is the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) sufficient

Many people are under the impression that, if their intake of nutrients meets the RDA, then they are getting enough to stay healthy.

However, as Linus Pauling, Nobel Prize winner, once said;

"RDA for a vitamin is not the allowance that leads to the best of health for most people. It is instead, only the estimated amount that for most people would prevent death or serious illness from overt vitamin deficiency.

Values of the daily intake of the various vitamins that leads to the best of health for most people may be several times as great as the values of the RDA".

Meeting the RDA for nutrients is the bare minimum for maintaining optimal health throughout our life. Optimal nutrition requires much more than the RDA and this does not decline as we grow older. In fact, the need for optimal nutrition increases and it certainly does not decrease as one would get the impression if one were to examine the typical diet fed to our elderly in institutional care. As we grow older our caloric expenditure declines, so we eat less. At the same time illness, decline in digestive efficiency and medications combine to cause states of chronic malnutrition that is widespread in elderly populations.

When levels of a nutrient are low in the body, merely achieving the RDA will, at best, stem further drops in body levels. A good example is low iron levels which affect up to 50% of some populations like young women and the elderly. If a person is told their iron levels are low then it is necessary to consume several times the RDA to bring about an appreciable improvement in body stores. It can take several months, if not a year or two, of steady supplementation to build stores of iron in the organs to optimum levels. Of course, regular blood test or, better still, a Hair Tissue Analysis will guide the supplementation.

It is more difficult than ever to get the essential vitamins and minerals from our food, despite improvements in "quality" and freshness. This paradox is due to the selection of plants for their nice taste and speed of growth, rather than nutrient density. The same can be said of animal sourced foods such as the succulently soft battery chicken. Furthermore, the nutrient density of our agricultural soils continues to steadily decline as only those that are necessary for plant growth are replaced.

Like it or not, the case for supplementing one's already good diet with various vitamins and minerals grows stronger by the day. If you are not sure of your nutritional needs, then investing in a Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis or an Active Elements Assessment helps you to take out the guesswork.


Anonymous said...

I would like to know based on the comments made on this web site where the hard evidence is for the argument that we have a serious problem with our food as far as nutrients go. I don't doubt that we may have some issues, but I have never read any scienetific evidence that solidly proves that a carrot or potatoe grown and sold in the local supermarket is nutrient deficient to the point of needing large amounts of supplementation. I think this is a lie of the industry to get us to buy supplements in the first place unless it can be proven otherwise. The only way to do this is to start doing samples of our current food stocks and test the soils they come from. Otherwise we run the risk of playing into the hands of people who are just out to make money.

Gary Moller said...

Raymond, Good question and I do not mind being held to account for statements that we hear repeated so often that they risk becoming truisms.
Are our soils depleted through modern agricultural processes? I think the best answer lies in doing your own web search and reading the wealth of research and opinion on the subject. I have spent a bit of time doing this and there is plenty of research and a lot of conflicting evidence. I believe there is enough evidence that some mineral levels have dropped other than ones like Ca, P & K which are rich in most fertilisers. But it is not that clear. There are too many regional factors such as the natural low levels of trace elements like Boron in the Central Nth Isl of NZ. One would expect the levels of Boron to have improved in animal product in these ares, as would selenium, which is added to animal drenches.

There is the possibly more significant factor and that is the breeding of crops for taste and yield and the processing that results in hollow foods such as those made with hydrogenated oils, white flour and corn syrup, to name just a few.

In my daily work I am convinced over and over again that much ill health nowadays has a significant nutritional component that can not be ignored and for which no amount of surgery, physiotherapy and drugs will resolve. In such cases the mere attaining of RDA nutrient levels is like putting a finger in a leaking dyke.

While I do not advocate "large amounts of supplementation" (whatever that actually means)I think there is a clear case of of using supplements on top of a nutrient rich diet to assist an unwell person with making a full and lasting recovery. There is also a good case for intelligent use of supplements for healthy people, including athletes, pregnant women and many others to ensure optimum health.
I am sure that you would have noticed that I have recently added a couple of forms of nutrient testing services to my website. These remove most of the guesswork out of deciding on nutritional needs. These are important additions because I do not support the willy-nilly dishing out of anything unless there is reasonably robust evidence of need - and therefore, benefit. Even if a person is in good health, I would still recommend the hair tissue mineral analysis. The results can be fascinating. Even if the result of the assessment is excellent, these can be stored away and, when repeated, may show trends that could be important predictors of health.

I think there is also enough evidence, good food or bad food, that most of us would benefit from taking on board some extra nutrients like vitamin C, especially during times of unusual stress - be that physical or emotional.

Anonymous said...

Firstly thank you for taking the time to respond to my questions I was impressed with that, Secondly I want to say that we have a serious problem with diet in this country,In the last 4 months I decided to remove all meat and dairy products from my diet and concentrate on whole foods such as fruit veges, nuts and seeds, whole grains and cereals as the bulk of my diet. The results have been great. My choletrol was a little high and in 3months dropped by a whole point. What I'm getting at is supplementation can sometimes be used instead of eating better, when we consider what the average person eats and drinks it is little wonder we are sick or worn out, it's sometimes easier to go to supplements instead of learning to eat better, although it does take a bit of effort to educate yourself about different supplements so maybe people don't bother and thats why they get sick.
As a person who trains regularly I'm happy with my diet and I have a very good friend whom I train with who is also a doctor and has been running for many years living by the principles I have described above. The key I think is good eating and good excercise.
By the way I'm not sure if you answered my question on the carrots or the potatoe, do you know of any food analysis done to see what is missing in our food. The hair test also has it's limitations, are their some common minerals or nutrients that keep coming up in these tests that people don't have?

Gary Moller said...

Hi Raymond! I am 200% with you about the diet thing and make a point when writing to remind people to concentrate on diet first and to use supplements exactly as they are called. Where there is an identified deficiency a course of the appropriate supplements may work wonders; but so mush depends on individual need.
The HTMA is an interesting test: imbalances within your cells can be the result of not just too much or too little but of the interaction of carious nutrients between each other and the solution is not always just a case of taking more of the deficient nutrient - one may have to take less of another and there may even be a spoiling effect by a toxin like a heavy metal or other contaminant. Various nutrients can be taken to render the toxins into a more soluble form that the body can eliminate. Unlike drugs these measures can be very slow to work their magic but without potentially dreadful side effects.

Did that answer your question?

With regards to the potatoes and carrots thing, I think the main factors for nutritional content comes down to variations between varieties and the soil they are grown in. As with so many things, the answer to good nutrition is variety and we certainly have plenty of variety of choice. Here in NZ we have many varieties of potatoe, including the kumara and the Maori potatoe which are highly nutritious sources of carbohydrates. The skins of these are currently being researched for their powerful antooxidant properties.

Anonymous said...

Cheers for all you have said, my doctor friend is about to take off to the states to a conference on nutrition by some of the leading researchers in this field, it should be interesting to hear back from him.

Have a great day