All foods come with a variety of labels and nutritional information that flies straight over the heads of most people. It is there to benefit the consumer, so that they can understand exactly what they’re putting into their bodies, and to make an informed decision. But for the most part, it is impossible for normal people to understand and make an informed decision based on the nutritional information and ingredient labels as they are very technical. Even buying non prescription supplements can leave you scratching your head in confusion when you see the medical jargon printed on the backside of the packs. Short forms such as RDA, DV, and NRV, are just the tip of the iceberg. You might find yourself standing in the aisle frantically googling this stuff to try and understand.

Or you might be one of the thousands of us who have to rely on others to tell us what’s best. But if you’re tired of this, we’e got a comprehensive guide to help you understand.

A European Union rule came into effect In December 2014 with the aim of making things more streamlined and clearer for consumers. The rule basically altered the way in which nutritional information like vitamins and minerals were put on the packaging of food products. This change is not well known among the general public which ended up creating a lot of confusion. While people might search for RDA which stands for Recommended Daily Allowance, the new rule replaced it, with no notice, with a new form.

Vitamins and minerals are not identified under the term of  RDA, although the term is still in effect for other food products. RDA is still used to define how many calories should you consume daily. The amount of calories recommended for women is around 2,000 per day, while men get an additional 500 per day. Probably due to the amount of energy they need to moan about stuff. Proteins, carbohydrates, and fat still employ the RDA form of measurement to define the nutritional content of the food. Salt and fluids also employ the RDA method. Only vitamins and minerals have shifted to the NRV form of measuring nutritional information.

What is the difference between RDAs and NRVs?

Vitamins and minerals have been changed from using RDA to NRV which stands for Nutritional Reference Values, in accordance of the instructions issued out by the European Union.

The value of RDA and NRV is however exactly the same. So now instead of having the nutritional information displayed entirely in RDA, it has now been changed to NRV. but that’s it!

What do NRVs actually mean then?

The scientific community available to the European Union has prompted them to have Nutrient Reference Values as a measure of the amount of vitamins and minerals recommended to be consumed on a daily basis.

It is designed to be a clear amount of nutrients to be consumed per day that are important for the healthy functioning of your body and to avoid any deficiencies. NRV’s basically provide the vitamins and minerals and the amounts needed to be consumed on a regular basis to avoid falling victim to disease.

So what do those numbers mean?

The number of terms that are displayed on labels or supplement websites can provide you with the information needed to calculate how much of a particular vitamin or minerals you are putting in your body during a day. Various guidelines have been set by the Institute of Medicine.

In order to stay healthy and avoid deficiency the amount of minerals and vitamins are put forth in the terms of RDA which is Recommended Dietary Allowance, and the AI which stands for Adequate Intake. These recommended amounts are prescribed based on the gender and the age of men, women and children.

On the other hand, the UL which stand for Tolerable Upper Intake level, basically prescribes the highest amount of minerals and vitamins you can introduce to your body without endangering it to side effects or an overdose. These types of tables and information are important because knowing the benefits of vitamins and minerals might lead people to overdo it while working under the mentality of ‘greater the amount, the better the results’. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The more you consume above the recommended UL, the more vulnerable your body will be to encountering its downfalls. For example, it has been discovered that an excess of Vitamin A can lead to bone density loss.

Aside from everything mentioned above, there are several other measures implemented by the Food and Drug Administration for our friends in America. The measure you might be most familiar with is DV which stands for Daily Value. The limited space afforded plus the need for just one understandable reference number on the labels mean that DV is the only one that manages to get on there. The number provided under DV is the recommended amount of minerals and vitamins you should ingest from a meal of 2000 calories in order to make sure your body is in great health. In a number of cases, the DV and RDA are the same. The purpose of the DV and the RDA is to make sure that you do not fall under or go above the recommended amount of intake. It also helps you prevent various diseases and ailments caused by the nutritious needs of your body not being met.

How much is excess?

While supplements themselves can be extremely beneficial for your health and could help to avoid ailments caused by vitamin deficiencies, when taken in excess they can be detrimental to your health. So how do know the recommended amounts and when to cap it? Is it advisable to take more than the RDA and DV recommended amounts?

The UL is a good indicator to understand the amount of vitamins and minerals that are beneficial for your body. You can take a much higher dosage of a number of vitamins and minerals without really coming anywhere near to the UL amount. For example the RDA recommended amount for B6 is pretty low. But you could easily take 50 times more of it without it ever coming close to the dangerous levels mentioned by the RDA. However it should be kept in mind that although it is much less than the UL levels, high dosage of B6 can still cause you great discomfort by causing symptoms like nerve pain. So it is better to be safe and not go overboard with the limits put by the RDA and DV.

There are a number of other things to be kept in mind including the fact that some supplements are considered to be much more dangerous than the others. Most are meant to be taken alongside a well balanced diet, not instead of it. You should keep in mind that the UL is the sun, and you need to not get too close to it, let alone touch it if you want to maintain good health. The UL number is almost never mentioned on your vitamins and food labels, but you can still find it on websites run by the government. Many nutrients should be strictly taken according to the recommended amounts, so it is best to adhere to the guidelines and not go overboard.