Dr Dale Peterson, vitamin, supplementation, optimum, daily allowances, RDA, Food and Nutrition Board

ODAs: Optimum Daily Allowances

ODAs: Optimum Daily Allowances

© 2000 Dr. Dale Peterson; © 2006 Wellness Clubs of America.com

Will and Seth each decided that it was time to buy a new car. They went to the same dealership on the same day and fell in love with the same model of the same car. As the new vehicles rolled off of the lot they were indistinguishable. Each had an equal opportunity to run for years without major mechanical problems.

Will, being conscientious, read the service section of the owners manual. He learned that his care should have 5 quarts of oil in the crankcase. The radiator was to be filled with 3 gallons of water. The tires were to have 32 pounds of air pressure for optimum performance. The battery was to be kept topped off with water on a regular basis. Will decided to follow the manufacturers recommendations.

Seth, on the other hand, was unconcerned. “My new car comes equipped with warning lights,” he reasoned. “The oil light will come on if the level drops below 3 quarts and the temperature light will glow if the water level in the radiator drops too low. As long as the car starts the battery is o.k. and the tires will still roll as long as they’re not completely flat.”

For some time Will and Seth will appear to be driving identical cars. The time will come, however, when the cars will need repair or replacement parts. Which do you suspect will break down first?

The human body is basically a machine that requires regular maintenance. It is an unfortunate truth that most people take better care of their cars than their bodies. It appears obvious that a vehicle will run longer and more efficiently if optimum levels of necessary fluids are maintained. Yet, when it comes to the body, few people maintain even minimum levels of essential nutrients.

Let’s look at one example. Vitamin E is essential for prevention of heart disease. The RDA or Recommended Daily Allowance – the point at which the warning light would come on in Seth’s car – of vitamin E is 15 mg, approximately 22.5 IU. To obtain this without supplementation one would need to consume 9 tablespoons of olive oil, 75 pieces of whole wheat bread, 40 almonds, or 200 peanuts daily. To maintain an optimum vitamin E level of 400 IU simply increase the consumption of those items eighteen fold.

The idea that this could be accomplished is ridiculous, of course, but many medical professionals continue to insist that nutritional supplements are unnecessary. Some will admit that they may be helpful for a person who is not eating a balanced diet, but does anyone really eat a balanced diet? Very few eat the minimum recommendation of 5 fruits and vegetables daily. It is estimated that only 10 % of the people in the United States get the necessary amount of essential fatty acids in their diet each day and they rarely eat whole grains.

The Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Science’ Institute of Medicine meets periodically to review what are called the recommended daily allowances – RDAs – the minimum requirements for various nutrients. While the RDAs remain woefully low the Board recently announced that much higher levels of nutrients are “tolerable.” What follow are my recommendations for ODAs - Optimum Daily Allowances – the levels of nutrients that are most likely to result in optimum health.

Vitamin A is needed to prevent night blindness and other eye problems. It plays a key role in enhancing the immune system. Low levels of vitamin A predispose a person to recurrent yeast infections, colds, and other infections. Optimum levels of vitamin A appear to be in the range of 20,000 to 25,000 IU daily. Unless a person has diabetes or hypothyroidism the majority should be obtained as beta-carotene. While it is possible to take too much actual vitamin A it is not possible to overdose on beta-carotene. Pregnant women, for example, should not take over 10,000 IU of vitamin A daily, but can take larger amounts of beta-carotene. The body will simply use the amount of beta-carotene it needs to meet its vitamin A needs and discard the rest. Diabetics and people with hypothyroidism should take actual vitamin A as they cannot convert beta-carotene to vitamin A efficiently.

The optimum daily amount of vitamin D is 800 IU. In the past it was felt that vitamin D supplementation was unnecessary because it is the “sunshine vitamin.” We now know that during the winter months (from late October to early April) the sun is too low on the horizon to generate the energy required to manufacture vitamin D. Vitamin D is necessary for bone health. It is possible to live for years unaware that a vitamin D deficiency is present. Unfortunately, the first sign of an inadequate vitamin D intake is usually a hip fracture.
Addendum November 2015:  Supplementation of high vitamin D doses in the 5,000 - 20,000 IU range are unnecessary and may cause adverse effects.  These recommendations are generally made on the basis of blood vitamin D levels, which do not reflect vitamin D activity in the body.  Supplementation of amounts greater than 1,000 IU daily should not be necessary regardless of "vitamin D level."

Vitamin E is an excellent antioxidant, preventing LDL cholesterol from being changed into a harmful form and protecting other body tissues from being damaged by unbalanced molecules called free radicals. It also helps to prevent inflammation in blood vessels and keeps red blood cells and platelets from clumping together and blocking circulation. Optimum daily intakes of vitamin E are 400 IU for most individuals and 800 – 1000 IU for diabetics. At these levels nearly all of the potentially harmful LDL cholesterol in the body is remaining in its natural form, which is harmless.

Vitamin C is an extremely versatile nutrient. It helps to recycle vitamin E in the body and acts as an antioxidant on its own. It works in harmony with vitamin A to boost the body’s immune system and helps the body handle stress. It also is necessary for proper wound healing. I recommend that the average individual take 500 mg. of vitamin C twice daily. Because it is a water soluble nutrient it passes through the system quickly and needs to be taken at least twice daily. Time released forms are available, but are generally not worth the extra expense. All animals except the Guinea pig manufacture their own vitamin C. When they are stressed or injured they dramatically increase their vitamin C levels. Therefore it is logical for humans to do the same. When a person takes more vitamin C than necessary stools will get loose. This typically occurs when more than 2,000 mg. are taken in a day. If an infection is coming on, however, it is often possible to take 6,000, 8,000 or even 10,000 mg. daily with no ill effects. As the infection or other stress improves it is necessary to taper to maintenance levels to avoid diarrhea.

B vitamins are necessary to maintain healthy nerves, skin, hair, liver, and blood vessels. They are also important in the manufacture of neurotransmitters, mood stabilizing chemicals in the brain, and can help prevent kidney stones. People who take B vitamins regularly handle stress better, have less anxiety and depression and fewer arthritic problems. Since B vitamins compete with each other for absorption they should always be taken in combination rather than as single supplements. They are water soluble so should be taken at least twice daily. The amount of each B vitamin required varies, but the ratios are well standardized. If a B vitamin supplement contains at least 50 mg. of B6, 400 ug. of folic acid, and 50 ug. of B12 the other B vitamins can usually be assumed to be present at proper levels.

In my opinion, the best way to obtain optimum nutrient levels is to use a comprehensive formulation such as Life Time by Vitality (800-423-8365) or Beyond Tangy Tangerine by Youngevity (www.hopesplan.com).  Doing so enables an individual to adjust the amount by weight to obtain the optimal amount of all essential nutrients.)

It is time for each of us to take responsibility for the care and maintenance of our own bodies. Years ago a television commercial showed a car up on a rack in need of a major overhaul. The mechanic would walk toward the camera and explain that the owner had not changed oil regularly. “You can pay me now or pay me later!” he would then declare. Nutritional supplements are the body’s equivalent of a car’s oil. You can pay now or you can pay later. The choice is yours.

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