All you need to know about your Recommended Daily Allowance

We’re constantly bombarded with the acronym RDA but do we actually know what it means, and how it should be affecting our diets?

Our Recommended Daily Allows refers to the amount of each nutrient we should be getting daily to maintain good health and reduce our risk of diet-related diseases.

RDAs vary from nutrient to nutrient because each one has a different series of functions and is required in different quantities in the body.

When it comes to nutrition, if a person is not getting the RDA what impact might this have on their health?

If we do not get the RDA then our health will not be optimum and we have an increased risk of certain diet-related diseases.

The B-group of vitamins includes thiamine (B1), niacin (B3), folic acid (B9) and cobalamin (B12), plus many others. These vitamins play a variety of roles, including helping the body take energy from food and keeping blood cells and the nervous and digestive systems healthy. Deficiencies in these vitamins can lead to fatigue, anaemia and skin conditions.

Vitamin D plays a key role in bone health because it helps to regulate calcium and phosphate levels, so a deficiency can result in pain and bone fragility in adults. In children, vitamin D deficiency can lead to rickets.

Vitamin C is an antioxidant so it helps to neutralize free radicals that cause damage to cells. It’s also important for the production of collagen which helps to maintain skin health and elasticity, plus it aids iron absorption in the gut. Severe deficiency leads to Scurvy, minor deficiency can result in fatigue, weakness, aching joints and muscles.

If somebody is worried they are not getting enough of these vitamins, should they see their doctor?

If you feel like your health is suffering as a result of a vitamin or mineral deficiency, then an appointment with your doctor may be recommended. A simple blood test can diagnose a deficiency, which you can then do something about by changing your diet or taking a supplement if you choose.

Could they benefit from adapting their diet and taking vitamin supplements if necessary?

Food is the obvious and preferred choice to obtain all the nutrients our bodies require. Unfortunately, the nutritional value of the food sources we consume isn’t always optimum due to various factors such as pollution and the use of pesticides and herbicides. As a result, supplementation with vitamins and minerals has become a common route to replenish and ensure adequate intake of these micronutrients.

Unfortunately, not all supplements are the same; different forms of supplement have different qualities to offer the consumer. Many of the vitamins and minerals available are chemically synthesised by processes which have little connection with food. What’s more, humans don’t naturally consume individual micronutrients; we consume foods containing these nutrients. The vitamins and minerals in food have a far greater bioavailability than those in isolated form, which means that when you consume micronutrients by eating food, a greater proportion are absorbed in the intestinal tract and are able to have an active effect in your body.

Some supplements are developed in ‘food-state’ or ‘wholefood’ form to optimise bioavailability.

These products retain more of the active components and molecular-structure of the original food source and so are more readily absorbed by the body.

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