Following Government Dietary Recommendations is a Mistake

. 1 min read

So after a month of hitting 100% of the Australian/New Zealand "recommended dietary intake" guidelines, I figured it might be a good idea to research where they get these numbers.

The first chapter of "NUTRIENT REFERENCE VALUES FOR AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND (2006)" foreshadowed a surprising realisation; in a box summarising various definitions, I found something quite remarkable:

SDT: Suggested Dietary Target
Average daily intake from food and beverages for certain nutrients that may help in the prevention of chronic disease.

RDI: Recommended Dietary Intake
Average daily dietary intake level that is sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements of nearly all (97-98 per cent) healthy individuals in a particular life stage and gender group.

But why the separate definitions? Surely what the government would recommend is what they deem healthiest? Wrong. As it turns out, RDIs are calculated by finding the intake of the average person not showing deficiency symptoms plus two standard deviations. In other words, they recommended just enough to 'get by'.

In a society where chronic disease and pain is so prolific do we want to be setting our goals relative to average health? At some point in the past, with limited research, one could argue that average is the best we could hope for. But for years even the government has had separate suggestions for optimum nutrition. Here are some comparisons between the RDI and SDT for a few nutrients:

  • Vitamin A: 900/1,500µg
  • Vitamin C: 45/220mg
  • Dietary Fiber: 30/38g

Keep in mind this is all coming from one document from 2006! Our understanding of optimum nutrition can only have improved.

It makes no sense to me that these agreed-upon values do not get publicised as much as RDIs. Seeing the difference in the above examples show just how unhealthy we are as a species.

Graeme Russell

I created this blog as a way to reach people about topics I care about: ethics, self-improvement, and lifestyle. I hope you can find something of value here.