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RDA, EAR, UL, RDI, AI, UL, and SONA described

After 2010: RDA = 600, EAR = 400 (incorrectly anticipated to get 50% of population to 20 ng)

A, B, C, D, E — it all sounds so simple. May 2010

Those simple letters, however, represent a vitamin soup, and the recipe is changing. The commonly known Recommended Daily Allowance or RDA was developed during World War II to investigate nutrition issues that might affect our national defense. The times were very different then, and that must be taken into consideration. We were engaged in a World War, our troops spent long periods of time overseas with limited diets and back home there were food shortages and food rationing.
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The RDA was developed to give both military and civilians a set of recommended nutrients that would not only be healthy, but provide a margin of safety. Since then, the RDA has been expanded to include the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which recommended in the 1950s not only the amount of nutrients we should receive, but the types and amounts of food we would need to get them.
Just to make the abbreviations more complicated, the EAR was calculated, which is the Estimated Average Requirement of a nutrient needed to meet the needs of 50 percent of the population. The RDA is generally 20 percent or so higher than that and was thought to meet the needs of 97 percent or more of our population. Recognizing that too much of a good thing can be harmful (like some fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A), an Upper Level or UL was also calculated to indicate those nutrients that might be harmful if taken in excessive amounts. The RDA led to the RDV or Recommended Daily Value, which is what we still use to label foods we buy.
Like all of medicine, science helps us advance and what was thought to be sound information half a century or more ago may not hold much water any more. Moving beyond the RDV, the Daily Reference Intake or DRI was developed in 1997 from several sources and is used both in the U.S. and in Canada. Unfortunately, the DRI has not changed the widely-used RDVs on nutrition labels.
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Dr. Drew Werner is the vice chief of staff at Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs and the Eagle County Health Officer. He lives in Eagle with his family. E-mail comments about this column to cschnell at vaildaily.com.

Wikipedia April 2012

  • Estimated Average Requirements (EAR), expected to satisfy the needs of 50% of the people in that age group based on a review of the scientific literature.
  • Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA), the daily dietary intake level of a nutrient considered sufficient by the Food and Nutrition Board to meet the requirements of nearly all (97–98%) healthy individuals in each life-stage and gender group. It is calculated based on the EAR and is usually approximately 20% higher than the EAR (See "Calculating the RDA", below).
  • Adequate Intake (AI), where no RDA has been established, but the amount established is somewhat less firmly believed to be adequate for everyone in the demographic group.
  • Tolerable upper intake levels (UL), to caution against excessive intake of nutrients (like vitamin A) that can be harmful in large amounts. This is the highest level of daily consumption that current data have shown to cause no side effects in humans when used indefinitely without medical supervision.


June 28, 2009 – India http://vhpotty.blogspot.com/2009/06/rda-rdi-dri-or-drv-does-it-make-any.html
Under the right to know what is in a packet of food, industry is forced to list some of the nutrients as percentage of DV (Daily Value), based on RDI or RDA recognized internationally in order to keep consumers informed about the nutrition status of the product. RDA is supposed to give information regarding the recommended dietary allowance and RDI, recommended dietary intake. DV per serving is derived based on RDA or RDI. RDI values reflect the adequacy of nutrient intake sufficient to meet the needs of 97-98% of healthy individuals. RDI is calculated based on certain assumptions which include (a) fat based calories constitute 30% of total calorie needs of 2000 kC (b) calories from saturated fat is 10% of total calories (c) carbohydrates contribute 60% of the energy (d) protein calories make up of 10% of total energy in the daily diet and (e) dietary fiber is 11.5 gm per 1000 calories consumed. RDA system started in 1941 in the US and the standards were being revised every 5-10 years. In fifties of the last millennium, the concept of nutrients per serving was implemented for better consumer understanding of the packed foods.
It was in 1997 that new standards were evolved and Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) became the accepted norm. Four types of DRI values were evolved which included EAR ( Estimated Average Requirement), RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance), AI (Adequate Intake) and UL ( Tolerable Upper Limit). As far as consumers are concerned, DRI may not be of much relevance as it is meant for nutritionists and dietitians for menu planning programs. RDI values now being commonly used for calculating DV are more or less same as the RDA values which were the norms till 1968. Besides these confusing terminologies, there is also SONA values (Suggested Optimal Nutritional Allowance), which happened to be the most comprehensive data on nutrients evolved over many years of studies with thousands of healthy people. SONA values are some time 20 times that of RDI because it takes into consideration the positive benefits of nutrient intake while RDI values are for minimum nutrition below which there can be deficiency symptoms.
One of the critical factors that can cause enormous variations in the requirements of nutrients for individuals is the efficiency of digestion and absorption which can vary considerably amongst people. On an average most people can only absorb 10% of the nutrients ingested and it is estimated that only 1-3 % of the total population with high absorption efficiency must be getting sufficient nutrition if one goes by only RDI in stead of SONA. The ideal diet concept emerged only because empirically eating certain foods in certain quantities can keep humans healthy but this information cannot be translated into nutrients consumed directly because of the bio-efficiency of natural foods in terms of better utilization of different nutrients. Human body is very vulnerable because of its inability to make on its own some of the nutrients vital for life which include 23 vitamins and minerals, 8 essential amino acids and 2 essential oils. They must be supplied from the diet.
In the above context, what purpose the nutritional labeling serves is a debatable point. If a manufacturer declares that his product contains 20% of DV of a particular nutrient, it does not guarantee that body can get the declared quantity by consuming the product as per the serving size. There are other imponderable factors like gycemic index, protein efficiency ration, type of fat in the diet, type of fiber etc which determine the ultimate quality of the product. Unless these factors are integrated into nutritional value of processed products, the present labeling system can, at best be, an approximation. In spite of the existence of RDI since 1941 and introduction of mandatory labeling for better consumer discretion in choosing healthy foods by the US, that country is facing the biggest health crisis world has known in the form of Obesity, CVD, Diabetes, Hypertension, Cancer of various types and Alzheimer's disease.
In India can we think in a different way? In stead of the US style of nutritional labeling, is it not better if only the proximate composition of the product is declared for the consumers to have an idea of the food he is buying? Probably any negative aspect associated with that type of product could also be highlighted including allergy, cholesterol, transfats, etc for which there are no upper limits prescribed. It is also a good idea to put on each label the composition of an ideal food as a part of nutritional education of the consumers.

The Vitamin Hoax: Big Pharma Speaks Through Reader's Digest Magazine

, February 04, 2008 by: Carol L. Ohnesorge, citizen journalist
(NaturalNews) The cover of the November 2007 issue of Reader's Digest magazine makes a strong statement through a featured article entitled The Vitamin Hoax: 10 Not to Take. Written by Reader's Digest Senior Research Editor, Neena Samuel, the article cautions readers not to be duped into purchasing vitamins and supplements. She seems concerned by the gullibility of Americans who are "fooled by unrealistic claims of what vitamins can do to 'increase energy,' 'stimulate brain function,' 'improve sex drive,' 'reverse cancer' and 'remove plaque' from your arteries."
Samuel writes that these "wild claims" help "explain why Americans shell out $7.5 billion a year on vitamins, hoping to prolong life, slow aging and protect against a bevy of illnesses." From her standpoint, it seems that Americans are a desperate, naive bunch, grasping at any snake-oiled promise to avoid the inevitable doom of chronic disease. Confident that the average American will be unable to sort through these "wild claims" about nutritional supplements, Samuel jumps to a list of ten we don't need to bother taking.
While it's true that people suffer illness, age, and die as part of the human condition, does this mean that no one should attempt to prevent, delay or improve the experience? Shouldn't one be able to educate themselves about wellness and try to live a healthier, fuller life through better nutrition and lifestyle awareness without being ridiculed? Studying nutrition and wellness doesn't make anyone more gullible. Major television networks often feature physicians who report on food, diet, exercise, and lifestyle which would appear to encourage people to become informed about healthy choices. No health practitioner would suggest that eating canned or frozen vegetables and highly processed foods will provide the most nutrition in a diet, and people are learning that we can no longer count on our grown and raised food to have all the nutrition it had fifty years ago.
Soils are depleted of nutrients, and an increasing percentage of our food sources are hybridized, genetically modified, and contaminated with hormones, antibiotics and pesticides. Given these limitations, how do we ensure ourselves a healthy diet? Samuel herself acknowledges that, "Everyone needs vitamins and minerals, which are crucial for good health and long life" but that "only 3 percent of us eat well enough for that." Maybe Americans who turn to supplements to complete their daily dietary needs, or who want to lessen their suffering and improve their quality of life are actually well-informed. She cites Cleveland Clinic's Chief Wellness Officer, Michael Roizen, M.D. as saying, "No one knows for sure why a food source may be more beneficial than a supplement, but one theory is that nature provides a perfect balance of compounds that isn't fully replicable in the lab. I take a vitamin and mineral supplement as an insurance policy against a less than perfect diet."
Getting our vitamins from healthful foods would be easier if our foods were of a better quality. The rising demand for heirloom produce, organic produce and free-range meats absent of hormones and antibiotics supports the notion that many Americans have made the connection between diet and illness. Americans who choose to inform themselves about which food sources are today's nutrient-dense options should be able to do so without ridicule. Simply eating the same foods we ate fifty years ago under the assumption that by doing so, we will receive adequate nutrition just isn't borne out in practice - or in fact.
Despite the issues we face today in finding quality, nutrient-dense foods, The Vitamin Hoax: 10 Not to Take confidently proclaims obtaining good nutrition is so simple that taking vitamins is overkill and can lead to toxic overload of some nutrients. Samuel's introduction evokes both skepticism and curiosity in many health-conscious readers. Hoping to rein-in the well-informed skeptics, she hopes to strengthen her argument by basing her claim on the standard Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) guidelines for daily nutrient intake.
Understanding the National Academy of Sciences' intent when the RDA guidelines were originally determined is key to keeping one's perspective in the face of a possible vitamin hoax. The Nutrition Digest of Essential Nutrients is a collection of science-based nutritional information complete with cited studies which provides an interesting look at the history and intent of the RDA guidelines. Compiled by researchers at Enerex Botanicals, Ltd., this digest was published to provide fact-based information about supplements and nutrients. Establishing A Suggested Optimal Nutrient Allowance (pgs. 16 - 31 of the digest) discusses the National Academy of Sciences' reasons for establishing the RDAs and the criticisms that arose regarding those guidelines. It also cites university research that led to the creation of alternative nutritional guidelines called Suggested Optimal Nutritional Allowances or SONA. Before we look at Samuel's list of ten supplements not to take, we need to be able to determine if we are getting such ample nutrition from our food that we can forego the supplements.
According to the research collected in the Nutrition Digest, the National Academy of Sciences proposed in 1941 that a guideline of minimum recommended daily dietary allowances be established for the express purpose of reducing the occurrence of diseases of malnutrition. These diseases of malnutrition include scurvy (caused by deficient levels of vitamin C), pellagra (caused by deficient levels of niacin), and beri-beri (caused by deficient levels of vitamin B-1). The RDA guidelines fell under sharp criticism within ten years of their publication because they were based on brief studies of approximately nine months and established only nutrient level minimums.
Maintaining one's health over the course of a lifetime likely requires the intake of daily nutrients at varying levels relating to conditions such as illness, habit, and stage of life. It is estimated that at least one chronic disease such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes or a degenerative disease of the bone or eye, will afflict 80% of the American population over the age of sixty. This wide-spread suffering of chronic disease in the aging may be evidence that the RDAs do not provide the levels of nutrients needed to maintain high quality health over a lifetime. In fact, the RDA guidelines are likened by the researchers to minimum wage rates since they barely sustain life let alone contribute in any meaningful way to improving life quality.
The analysis provided in Establishing A Suggested Optimal Nutrient Allowance highlights further flaws with the RDAs. In addition to being established only as nutrient minimums, the RDAs fail to take into consideration the impact of lifestyle. Several studies have shown that behaviors such as regular consumption of alcohol, following special diets, and habitual smoking will lower blood levels of various nutrients. The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) stated in their own findings that the RDAs "vary greatly in disease" implying that there are circumstances of living that can and do influence and change RDA requirements.
It was not until the 1989 edition, however, more than forty-five years after their initial publication, that the NAS finally acknowledged smokers' need for higher levels of vitamin C to prevent malnutrition. Studies since then have determined that smokers also have lower blood levels of vitamins and minerals including (but not limited to) beta carotene, zinc, vitamin B-6 and vitamin E. These findings indicate that nutrient deficiencies may contribute significantly to smokers' increased health risks. Clearly there are variables the RDAs do not address and which are not reflected in the current guidelines. The NAS has never maintained that the RDAs are optimal nutrient levels intended to promote high quality health over many years, yet The Vitamin Hoax consistently refers to the RDA's numbers as though they were standards for optimal health in all individuals regardless of personal habits and lifestyle.

To gain a better perspective of the inadequacy of the standards which constitute the foundation for Samuel's list, consider the work of two doctors at the University of Alabama School of Medicine cited in the Nutrient Digest; Emanuel Cheraskin and W.M. Ringsdorf, Jr. Given the narrow scope of the RDA guidelines, they attempted to ascertain the actual ideal daily consumption levels for nutrients, carbohydrates, protein and fat that healthy people consume daily and thereby thrive. Cheraskin and Ringsdorf, Jr. hypothesized that people who are more "symptom and sign-free of suffering" are healthier than people who present clinical symptoms and show signs of disease.

Together, they designed a long-term research study investigating daily nutrient intake-levels of healthy people, and whether supplementation was a part of the healthiest lifestyles. This 15-year study collected comprehensive health and diet information on 13,500 men and women living in six different regions of the United States. The standardized information that was collected included "(1) the Cornell Medical Index Health Questionnaire of 195 questions (2) a complete physical including dental and eye exams by medical professionals (3) heart tests including an EKG (4) a glucose tolerance test (5) a complete blood analysis including 50 blood chemistries and (6) a comprehensive daily dietary survey." By analyzing the nutritional intake of disease-free individuals, they hoped to provide a scientifically qualified basis for determining optimal daily nutrient levels.

The Cheraskin and Ringsdorf, Jr. study consistently indicated that the healthiest people were those who had taken supplements and who had eaten a nutrient-rich diet in relation to the number of calories they ate. By comparing the daily intake levels of vitamins in the healthiest subjects, researchers calculated the mean or average amount of each vitamin consumed. Using these calculations, Alex Schauss, Ph.D. developed the Suggested Optimal Nutrient Allowances (SONA).
The SONA guidelines do not offer specific claims about nutrient abilities. They simply reflect what nutrient levels were consumed daily by healthy participants in the study and thus suggest that a diet including these nutrient levels each day is part of a healthy lifestyle. For example, the healthiest people in the study consumed approximately 410 mg of vitamin C each day. Analyzing the study data by age and gender determined SONA recommendations of 400mg of vitamin C for men and women aged 25-50, and 800-1000mg of vitamin C for men and women aged 51 and older. By contrasting these amounts to the RDA's recommendation of 60mg of vitamin C daily, it becomes clear that the RDA guidelines could only have been interpreted as the bare minimums.
Samuel's alarmist warnings regarding the dangers of supplementation are incorrectly based on the obsolete RDA guidelines. Such low levels of nutrients could not be considered toxic. After all, the RDA nutrients were only meant to serve as the low-watermark to avoid malnutrition. In the specific case of vitamin C, Samuel claims that there is "no conclusive evidence that it prevents colds, heart disease, cataracts or cancer." However, when Drs. Cheraskin and Ringsdorf, Jr. analyzed the diets of the healthiest, most disease-free people (those people with the fewest signs and symptoms of illness such as colds, heart disease, cataracts and cancer), they found the daily intake of vitamin C was nearly 9 times the RDA guideline level.
The following is Samuel's list of ten vitamins not to take including a side-by-side comparison of the RDA levels and SONA guidelines for each. These are the same vitamins which Samuel asserts people receive ample amounts of by simply following a healthy diet. Sometimes she lists specific food amounts needed to obtain the RDA of a particular nutrient, so the SONA amounts of the same foods have been listed for direct comparison. In the case of Vitamin C, Samuel states, "A glass of OJ will give you almost all you need to avoid malnutrition." Yet, achieving the SONA levels for vitamin C with the intention to thrive and live healthfully would require that a person drink at least nine times that amount. How many people actually drink nine or more glasses of OJ every day? And how many people could pass a glucose tolerance test if they drank that much orange juice from concentrate every day?
Contributing to the article's inconsistency, Samuel sometimes suggests eating from a specific food group to obtain the RDA amounts of a nutrient but leaves specific amounts of those foods up to the imagination. She writes simply, "grab a tuna sandwich" or eat "red meat," implying excellent food sources are at arms length, that people eat plenty from these sources every day, and that therefore supplementation is unnecessary. The chart below shows a dramatic contrast between RDA and SONA measurements for daily nutrient intake. The USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference was used to create the final column. It specifies how much of a particular food a person would have to eat each day to obtain the RDA versus the SONA measurements for those nutrients. Those who assume from reading The Vitamin Hoax that eating a salad fulfills both a healthy body's need for folic acid and Samuel's advice to simply "find it in dark green leafy vegetables" will see that in fact, it is much more difficult to achieve optimal nutrition without supplementation.

  • RDA versus SONA Food Amts:

1) Vitamin A: RDA 700-900mcg, SONA 2000mcg (1 medium carrot vs. 4 carrots)
2) Beta Carotene: RDA None Established, SONA 80-100mg (8 cups cooked spinach)
3) Vitamin C: RDA 75-90mg Smokers Add 35mg, SONA 800-1000mg (1-8oz cup OJ vs. 11 cups)
4) Vitamin E : RDA 15mg, SONA 800mg (1oz. roasted almonds vs. 7 lbs. of almonds)
5) Selenium: RDA 55mcg, SONA 200-250mcg (3 oz. canned tuna vs. 1 lb of canned tuna)
6) Folic Acid: RDA 400mcg, SONA 2000mcg ("eat green vegs." vs. 12 cups of broccoli)
7) Niacin: RDA 14mg-16mg, SONA 25-30mg (6 med. baked potatoes vs. 12 baked potatoes)
8) Lycopene: RDA None Established, SONA Not Found (10 cherry tomatoes = 4mg)
9) Iron: RDA 8-18mg, SONA 20mg ("eat red meat" vs. 2 lbs. cooked burger)
10) Zinc: RDA 8-11mg, SONA 17-20mg ("eat poultry" vs. 11 chicken breasts)
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The Sona Study By Mark Schumacher

The Sona Study By Mark Schumacher
If you have not read The SONA Study, I can certainly understand why. It is 49,000 pages long and took 15 years to complete. The next logical question would be, " What is it, and why should I care?" The Sona Study is the longest running study to determine the level of nutrients that the body needs daily in order to obtain optimal health, and in the case of the 15 year study, remain disease free. Without recreating the 49,000 pages, I will share some of the highlights.
Through the years, the medical industry and the US Government have acknowledged that there are essential nutrients that the body must have and can not make on its own. It is why the RDA (Recommended Daily Dietary Allowance) has been revised upwards of ten times since it was created by the National Academy of Sciences in 1941. It was originally created to prevent scurvy (vitamin C deficiency), beriberi (deficiency of thiamine), and pellagra (deficiency of niacin). However, as we have learned through ongoing studies, the RDA is still inadequate. It was developed from six month to nine month studies which are much too short of a window into the human life cycle to be accurate.
The RDA does not address all the toxins, stress, alcohol consumption, use of tobacco or prescription drugs, and the depletion of nutrients these all cause. Just as a quick example; any smoker is going to show an additional need for vitamin C, beta-carotene, zinc, vitamin B6, and vitamin E. Studies have shown these deficiencies can lead to many of the complications that smokers are prone to have. At some point, the RDA again will be revised upward since none of these depletions are accounted for.
There needed to be a long-running study, involving thousands of people, that was so extensive and detailed that the level of nutrients required to be healthy over one's lifetime and provide a better quality of life. Funded by the U.S. Senate, the University of Alabama School of Medicine took on the 15-year multimillion dollar project. Drs Cheraskin and Ringdorf were the senior investigators that covered 6 various regions of the United States. Many of the findings and articles on various minerals, amino acids, essential oils and vitamins published over the past 20 years have come as a result of this ground breaking study. The study was going to finally determine how many essential nutrients there are and how much of each does the human body need daily.
The study's basic goal was to find the ideal daily consumption of each nutrient to determine the optimum amount a person should have to maintain health. Let's just take a look at one vitamin as an example. We will take a look at the well known vitamin C. The average daily intake of the healthiest, disease-free participants was 410 mg per day. Compare that to the 90 mg a day for the RDA and you see the huge discrepancy.
In addition, to validate the effects of this one vitamin, 33 clinical studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the higher the intake of vitamin C above the RDA, the more significant the protection against cancer. Smoking depletes vitamin C, along with other nutrients that leave the body defenseless. One can therefore understand why smokers make up some 95% of lung cancer patients. Taking a vitamin based on the SONA study makes a lot of sense. It is far superior than the RDA and the nutrients are in the correct amounts to maintain health.
In 2002, after decades of anti-vitamin policies, the American Medical Association finally chose to recommend daily multi-vitamins. This may open the door so that over time doctors will have more training on nutrition. After nearly 100 years of knowing how important the essential nutrients are, perhaps the medical practioners are close to recognizing that you simply cannot be healthy without proper nutrition, vitamins, minerals, essential oils and amino acids, in the right ratios. It just is not possible.
The SONA Study has given us the tools we need to make wise decisions. Let's take a quick look at the basic requirements.
Consider that the RDA represents the "minimum wage" (which you really can't survive on) for your health. The SONA Study represents the only nutritional guideline backed by science to provide real HEALTH over your lifetime. There are less then 50 essential nutrients that you must have and the body can +not make. They consist of 23 minerals, 13 vitamins, 8 essential amino acids (10 for children: 11 for premature infants), and 2 essential oils. The SONA, SONA Rx (for athletes and ages over 50), and SONA Prenatal are the only vitamin/mineral/enzyme formula based on the SONA study. They are combined in the right ratios with micro-nutrients in a chelated tablet for maximum absorption. They are taken throughout the day so you have a steady stream of nutrients as your body needs.
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To read about the sona study go to the site below.

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