Differences between the US (IOM) and European (EU Comission) Recommended Dietary Allowances


There are some curious differences between these two sources.

European recomendations: http://old.eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:32008L0100:EN:HTML
USA recomendations: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dietary_Reference_Intake

One example is Folic Acid / Folate. US RDA is 400 mcg Folate, EU RDA is 200 mcg Folic Acid!! It’s a big difference : (

Why do I want to know this? I’m trying to make an alternative to the Liquid Cake recipe that instead of using the Amazon Multivitamin uses Centrum (a very widely available Multivitamin in Portugal, Europe). With Centrum I only have 200 mcg of Folic Acid (100% of the EU RDA) whereas with the original Multivitamin I should get 500 mcg.

I’ve found this source regarding the conversion between Folic Acid and Folate: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Folate-HealthProfessional/#h2

So according to this source, 200 mcg of Folic Acid should be 333 mcg of Folate? Then the EU RDA is a bit closer to the US RDA?

Any help on this is appreciated! : ) Thanks!


I don’t see any upper limits on the EU link. I would be more interested in the difference there. Either way, aim for the middle and you should be just fine.


The March of Dimes did research that showed that taking folic acid during the earliest stage of pregnancy could reduce the chance of birth defects such as spina bifida, and decided that the magic amount was 400 mcg. (I’m afraid I’m not familiar with the difference between folate and folic acid, but the ad campaigns said “400 mcg of folic acid” IIRC.)

Since many women often don’t even realize they’re pregnant until several weeks into gestation, after the brain and spine of the fetus have already started forming, the public health campaign called for “all women of childbearing age” to receive that much in a daily supplement. Statistics say that something like half the pregnancies in the USA are unplanned. So the logic was, if all women who could possibly become pregnant took a folic acid supplement, then birth defects would be prevented.

I am not sure how successful this public health campaign has been in preventing birth defects, or how necessary it is. Apparently the EU doesn’t agree that it’s necessary.

The long and the short of it is, if there’s no possible chance you’ll get pregnant, you don’t need a full 400 mcg. How much is necessary for adults’ own health, I don’t know.