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Dietitian Q/A

Because of the contents of some questions and the large number we receive, the MUSC Dietitians only answer selected questions. Although we discourage questions regarding personal health problems, scheduling an appointment with the outpatient dietitian to address these concerns is encouraged. Appointments can be made after a physician referral is received.

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 Question:  At 5' 2" and 120 lb. why do I require the same amount of minerals and vitamins as others who are twice my size ?


It would seem like someone one twice your size would need more than you, but it would be difficult to put an amount for every vitamin and mineral for every person. Since this is the case, the government figured out how much a person would need to remain healthy based on gender and age. This will somewhat take into account weight, height, and rate of metabolism. Men tend to be larger and have faster metabolisms than women for instance. So they have higher recommended needs. Certain conditions increase needs as well. For instance pregnant and breastfeeding women have different needs than women who are not pregnant or breastfeeding.

The RDAs(Recommended Daily Intake) are based on this idea. If everyone were to meet the RDA, then 98% of people would be expected to meet their needs. Some (like you for instance) might be a bit over but that's ok. Our bodies can usually flush out the excess vitamins and minerals that we don't actually use. However, for some vitamins and minerals too much can be toxic. For those Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (UL) have been set. These are levels at which the body cannot flush out enough of the excess to be safe or harmful effects have been seen.

So it's not a perfect method of determining vitamin and mineral needs, but it is an affective one. And in reality our intakes are not perfect either, but nature was prepared for that. Our vitamin and mineral intakes in our diets vary from day to day and the body is designed to handle these variations. We hold on to some things and get rid of others to keep ourselves in balance. The RDAs just give us a guide to make sure we have enough of everything to help maintain that balance.

Answered: 11/01/2011

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