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Question: Are the "% DV" numbers on vitamin supplement labels really based on what I need?
Answer: Unfortunately, the % DV (percent of Daily Value) numbers are not nearly as useful as they could be. One reason is that they are woefully out of date. The DVs are based on calculations done in 1968 (with some additions in 1989) and do not reflect the latest intake recommendations from the Institute of Medicine which show that some DVs are too high and others are too low. In addition, the DVs do not distinguish nutritional needs by age and gender since the DVs are intended to cover healthy adults and children over 4 years of age (except pregnant and lactating women), while the needs of people vary significantly within this expansive group — even between men and women of the same age.
In some situations, the DVs actually exceed the upper tolerable intake levels for adults and/or children. In these cases, when you get 100% or more of the DV from a supplement, you are actually putting yourself at risk of toxicity.
In other situations, 100% of the DV or more is simply much higher than the current recommendations. What appears be 100% of the DV could actually be as much as 1,000% of what you need.
For several popular vitamins and minerals, if you get 100% of the DV, you are actually getting much less than the current recommendations.
The DVs do not include the special needs of women or are pregnant or lactating, whose needs are often much greater than 100% of the DV.
The nutrients for which the DVs can be particularly misleading are vitamin A, vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin K, biotin, calcium, chromium, copper, folate, iron, iodine, magnesium, molybdenum, niacin, pantothenic acid, potassium, and zinc.