Do I need more than the RDA level of vitamins and minerals?

First lets look a the history of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA): The RDA was developed during World War II by Lydia J. RobertsHazel Stiebeling and Helen S. Mitchell, all part of a committee established by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences to investigate issues of nutrition that might “affect national defense”. The committee was renamed the Food and Nutrition Board in 1941, after which they began to deliberate on a set of recommendations of a standard daily allowance for each type of nutrient. 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 for “energy and eight nutrients”, and submitted them to experts for review. The final set of guidelines, called RDAs for Recommended Dietary Allowances, were accepted in 1941. The allowances were meant to provide minimal nutrition for civilians and military personnel, so they would avoid diseases of diffiencey like scurvy, beri beri, plegura, rickets, etc.

Ok, that is good, but if your goal is to just barely avoid these diseases of deficiency, then the RDA is the minimum you should shoot for. But if you want to improve your health and prevent or stave off the multitude of degenerative diseases, then you need levels of many nutrients far above the RDA (or more recently the RDI) levels.

There has been a tremendous amount of research done looking at the benefits of supplementing with vitamins and minerals.  Just search for any vitamin or mineral and you’ll be amazed by how many published medical research articles are available.

Sadly most doctors and dietitians think that the RDA is the maximum amount you should take, no, it is the minimum!  I heard one doctor on the Today Show a year ago or so talking about kids nutrition and warning parents to look at the nutrition in the foods they eat and to not give them supplements because they may exceed the RDA amounts.  I also just read an article about marathon training written by a dietitian recommending the same thing.  It is insanity for an elite athlete to not supplement. They can’t not get all the nutrients their bodies need from food alone.  As a proof point, the supplement I take daily is used by thousands of Olympic and elite professional athletes. If you look at the Vancouver olympics about 25% of the Olympic athletes using these advanced supplements took home medals.  

There are indeed upper levels which shouldn’t be exceeded because it can become toxic. Vitamin A for example. You shouldn’t take over 10,000 iu of Vitamin A (Retinol) but beta-caroteen, the pigment that makes carrots orange, can be broken down by your body into Vitamin A as needed. SoThere is no danger if your supplement has Vitamin A as Beta-Caroteen. you’re body will convert what it needs and no more.  Another one is iron.  Iron can be toxic and shouldn’t be supplemented unless you are anemic. In addition it is also poorly absorbed as a supplement, better to eat lots of spanish or liver. 

So you can equate the RDA to your kids report card. the RDA is just passing, like a D grade.  They will get through school and will graduate, but try getting into college with a D average. Wouldn’t you rather have your kid get straight As?  That is what optimal levels of nutrition are.  So upgrade your body from just passing with a D to excelling with As!