Recommended Daily Intake - Is it enough?
Updated: Jul 9, 2019
Supplements can bring you closer to a state of optimum health, but they are not a substitute for more natural health strategies.
If you have ever looked at the quantities of vitamins recommended by public health bodies and compared them with the amount found in your supplements, you will have noticed a huge difference. For example, the Australian RDI (recommended daily intake) for vitamin C is just 45 mg per day (NHMRC, 2017). Many people supplement with thousands of milligrams of vitamin C each day. So, are they wasting their money?
To answer this question, we first need to understand where the RDI number comes from. RDI is based on meeting the needs of the population in general. It does not take into account individual needs. This means that should your need for a nutrient be increased (e.g. if you are under a lot of stress, not getting enough sleep, training for a sports event, have a health condition etc), the RDI will not be enough.
Furthermore, the RDI for the population at large is the amount that is considered to be ‘adequate’. 45 mg of vitamin C each day should be enough to stop your gums bleeding and your teeth falling out. Doesn’t sound very enticing, does it? Do you want to live a life that is just adequate, obtaining just enough nutrients to not get sick? Or do you want to live life to the optimum? Do you want to have higher energy levels, an improved mood, clearer thinking and decision making, and to live a more productive and happier life?
The RDI for nutrients is based on an ‘average’ person, and in a quantity just enough to not get symptoms of deficiency. That is not the same as achieving optimal health outcomes, nor does it take into account any increased needs for particular nutrients based on your individual circumstance. Particular conditions increase the needs for particular nutrients. It is not always possible to obtain a therapeutic dose of a nutrient just from food. For example, how many oranges would you need to eat to obtain 6,000 mg of vitamin C?
Some might say that there is no scientific evidence behind nutritional supplements, but this is rubbish. Pharmacists and orthodox medical professionals now promote supplements such as fish oils, glucosamine, and ‘multi’s’ for pregnancy. These were all promoted by naturopaths long before they became mainstream. Do a search on the Internet for any nutrient and you will find thousands of published peer reviewed scientific articles on the effects of that nutrient on health markers.
So, nutritional supplements most definitely have their place in improving the health of our population. Unfortunately the natural therapies industry has become quite supplement driven. For many therapists, sales of products ‘supplement’ their income from practice. There’s nothing wrong with this per se, so long as practitioners and their clients remember that these products are called ‘supplements’, not ‘replacements’. Good food and regular physical activity are the cornerstones of good health, and can’t be obtained from tablets!
While supplements can bring you closer to a state of optimum health, they are not a substitute for more natural health strategies (diet, exercise, stress reduction, quality sleep etc).
For the practitioner, supplements are easier to sell than dietary advice. For the client, supplements are easier to swallow than a change in diet!
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