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RDAs WITH BOTH MINIMUM AND OPTIMAL NUTRIENT LEVELS PROPOSED

This article was originally published in The Tan Sheet

Executive Summary

RDAs WITH BOTH MINIMUM AND OPTIMAL NUTRIENT LEVELS PROPOSED to replace current RDAs by Nutritional Health Alliance Legislative Advisor Tony Martinez to the National Academy of Science's Food and Nutrition Board on June 29. Arguing against the substitution of nutrient ranges for the present Recommended Dietary Allowances, Martinez said that the nutrient range proposal would "result in Americans receiving less qualitative information about proper nutritional intake." Instead, Martinez recommended that RDAs be revised along two tracks: one establishing "minimum requirements known to prevent nutritional deficiencies"; and another establishing "optimal requirements known to reduce risk factors associated with or that prevent chronic disease." Several variations on Optimal Daily Intake levels were recommended during the public hearing sponsored by NAS. While NHA recommended dividing the RDAs, other groups favored preserving the standard and establishing separate figures for optimal levels (see preceding story). Still other groups favored ranges to numerical recommendations. American Health Foundation Senior Member John Weisburger, MD/PhD, suggested that the RDAs simply be updated to include known optimal levels as suggested by recent epidemiology studies that have established correlations between micronutrients and chronic disease. Weisburger recommended that beta carotene levels be set at 3-5 mg per day for children, and at levels of 10 mg per day for adults. He also recommended that all adults increase their daily intake of folate to .4 mg; riboflavin and thiamine to 2 mg; niacin to 3 mg; vitamin B[6] to 4 mg; vitamin E to 80 mg; and vitamin C to 250 mg (with pregnant and lactating women increasing intake to 400 mg). Calcium intake, he suggested, should be raised from 800 mg to 1,200 mg for men and women between the ages of 19 to 50 while iron intake should be lowered to 6 mg daily for all men as well as women above the age of 51. Weisburger also indicated that protein intake should be reduced for men over the age of 19, and for women aged 15 to 18 and above the age of 25. In addition, he recommended that daily vitamin D intake be increased from .005 mg to .01 mg for adults above the age of 25. American Dietetic Association representative Sachiko St. Jeor, PhD, University of Nevada, said that any future revision of the RDAs should be specifically targeted to various demographic groups -- and to conditions within those demographic groups -- and should define the extent of health benefits the recommendations are meant to reflect. The RDAs should be extended "to cover the elderly population beyond age 51," the current cutoff figure for older adults, St. Jeor advised. New RDAs should also "address special needs of minority populations and other special subgroups," she suggested. Before beginning its revision, however, the NAS board should investigate the relative merits of nutrient ranges and number levels, St. Jeor urged. In response to repeated suggestions to either formulate separate optimum levels or revise the RDAs to reflect optimum intake, Paul La Chance, PhD, Rutgers University, cautioned the board against becoming overly ambitious in encouraging micronutrient intake. He maintained that the Food and Nutrition Board should avoid "diluting" RDA numbers so much that regular dietary intakes seem insufficient.
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