Exceeding DRI - why? Is it safe?


#1

Hello there,
I’ve read great reviews about soylent and so I am very curious to try it. Unfortunately it’s not yet available where I live, so I turned to DIY soylent.

As I dug into recipes, I immediately noticed that some ingredients in most popular recipes (people’s chow, joylent) exceed DRI by many times (2-20). Comments section further deepened my suspicion with (not verified by me) facts:

  • Original Soylent recipe doesn’t exceed DRI
  • Some nutrients, if repeatedly taken in amounts > DRI, may cause serious injury like
    nerve damage or bleeding

I’m worried because I believe that DRI is a tested norm, and examples from my day-to-day products seem to prove it with nutrients not exceeding 100% of DRI (according to information on products labels). My daily mutivitamin label also says that it has around 100% DRI of each of the advertised vitamins.

So I would be very grateful if you can answer these questions:

  1. Is it safe to exceed DRI? What is the threshold?
  2. What benefits does exceeding DRI bring?
  3. Are there recipes that do not exceed DRI?

Thank you!


#2

It depends entirely about which component you are talking about. There are some where there is no known harmful dose and others where you have to be careful.

Eve


#3

Yes. It depends on what nutrient your asking about.

Go to the DIY site and pick a recipe, click on the “Recipe Editor” tab, scroll down to the nutrient table, you will see the amount of each nutrient that is provided and any known safe limits (upper or lower). Any items that have been exceeded will turn red.

Ease of use when creating a recipe mostly. Some have health benefits.

No.


#4

As Kennufs says, in some cases there is evidence that the DRI is not the healthiest level. For example, vitamin C at the DRI will prevent scurvy; you can easily take many times more with no negative effects; and some researchers believe that significantly more than the DRI is better for your health.

Similarly, people who don’t get much natural sunlight may benefit from taking many times the DRI for vitamin D. I had marginal blood levels of vitamin D in my last checkup, so my doctor recommended that I take 1000IU of D3 per day as supplements. That’s almost double the US RDA, but I know people whose doctor recommended 5000IU; even higher is considered safe. If you think about it, people eating “natural” foods get widely varying amounts of many nutrients, so your body tends to have fairly wide ranges between “barely enough” and “too much.” There are exceptions, but for most nutrients that will be the case.

If you are worried about the high level of some nutrient, look it up before you decide whether or not it is truly a concern.


#5

I would suggest you start by reading about how the DRIs are actually set. They are intended to keep 98% of people from showing signs of deficiency and thats all. They are not optimal, minimal, or even maximum doses for the vitamins and minerals. A lot of them are set by taking the average intake of a given population that is not showing signs of deficiency. Hardly scientific.

It is safe to exceed the DRI for most nutrients. A number of them have what is called an Upper Limit (UL). That is the amount when symptoms start to appear. So staying under the UL is advised for those nutrients. As you may notice not all the nutrients have an UL. For those the limited scientific data shows there is no harm in consuming large doses.

http://fnic.nal.usda.gov/dietary-guidance/dietary-reference-intakes/dri-nutrient-reports

It depends on the nutrient in question and what form its in. Vitiamins and minerals come in a wide variety of forms and some are more easily absorbed by the body than others. The term is bioavailability. Going over the minimum is a way of hedging your bet and making sure your body absorbs enough.

As I mentioned before the DRIs are meant to prevent deficiency only. They are not meant to be optimal doses by any means. For some more could be better for others less could be better. It all depends and there is limited scientific data on what is actually an optimal dose for the nutrients.

Sadly no. The reason Soylent is able to hit the DRIs so precisely is because they have a custom made multivitamin multimineral made for them. Us in the DIY community are limited to what the vitamin industry gives us. As you said your multi has 100% of a lot of the essentials, but try adding a carb, protein, fat, and fiber source to that and see how far you deviate from the DRIs.

You can try to make you own custom multi that fills in the gaps left by your carb, protein, fat, and fiber sources but it seems like an awful lot of work to do all the precise measuring.

Also consider this. You take a multi that gives you 100% of a lot of the nutrients. Then you, and a great deal of other people, eat regular food on top of that. That food also gives varying amounts of nutrients which would then put you over the DRI. Have you ever heard of anyone being sickened or injured by doing this?


#6

Your daily food provides 100% of some vitamins and minerals, but not others. Your multivitamin also provides 100% of many.

If you eat food and take that multivitamin, you are probably already doubling the DRI for some vitamins and minerals. The same happens if you make DIY soylent with a multivitamin.

I suggest carefully reading Horsfield’s excellent reply. Also, for the few vitamins and minerals which have established upper limits, you’ll notice them listed in the bottom section when you edit the recipe on the DIY site. This is a good safety baseline, if you’re concerned.


#7

@Crude, for stuff like manganese, B6, calcium and even probably potassium i dont think its a wise idea to exceed DRI. B complex vitamins (except B6 ofcourse) and vit C and vit D (if you are not getting any sun at all) may not harm the body that much for a certain while if their DRI exceeds. But anything excess for a long time could potentially be harmful. We dont have enough studies to establish their dangers if they are consumed more than the DRI. And it means we dont know the dangers.

So its better to err on the side of caution when we dont know the dangers.


#8

Wow, I am overwhelmed by quantity and quality of your responses! Thank you, @horsfield, @kennufs, @wms, @MentalNomad, @Tark and @EveB!

I want to recap everything that I got so far, it helps me to understand. Please correct me if I’m wrong.


Scientific data on nutrients is not complete. Basically, some nutrients are better researched than others, so we have data on their effects and healthy dosage. We are less certain about other less studied nutrients. Further on I am going to generalize and treat all nutrients like the least studied to reduce the risk.

While eating normal food we do not precisely control amounts of nutrients we get so we probably go over DRI on a regular basis (how much over remains uncertain). This implies that there is some unknown leeway that can be shown on this scale:

             <---limits unknown-->  
             <------healthy------>
   starving  |  ?  |  DRI  |  ?  |  complications  
0 -----------|-----|-------|-----|-----------------------> ∞

It is the unknown part that makes it scary. As someone without extensive knowledge on the subject, I want to minimise the risks (but still try soylent, yeah) and the obvious way to do so is to seek ways to make DIY soylent not exceeding DRI at all or exceeding it by less than 40%, arbitrary number I feel safe with.

That brings us to the reasons why there are no DIY recipes that do not exceed DRI. DIY soylent is made out of off-the-shelf ingredients and the problem is that nutrients are rarely sold as separate products. If every nutrient and vitamin were available separately in powder form, it would be a DIYers paradise. (Why aren’t they available?)
Instead, to us, mere mortals (as opposed to Soylent HQ), nutrients come prepacked with other nutrients, usually without precise information about quantities, like a chicken or a banana. So, nutrients composition of combination of easily available products cannot be measured precisely and that is the reason why all DIY recipes exceed DRI.

Am I getting it right so far?


#9

I think you have it right except that (other than the case of caloric intake) the issue with going below DRI isn’t “starvation,” it is “malnutrition.” There may even be a better word. So you can be totally well fed (not starving!) and still die of scurvy (AKA insufficient vitamin C).


#10

You’re definitely on the right track.

A few tweaks or points:

I’d replace “starving” with “deficiency.” Starving usually implies a shortage of energy/calories.

Looking at your chart, where you say, “DRI,” many are probably thinking of the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance.) The DRI encompasses several figures:

  1. The RDA (Recommended)
  2. The AI (Adequate Intake, lower than the RDA)
  3. The UL (Upper Limit, higher than the RDA.)

The RDA is the lowest level that keeps about 98% of the population free of any gross adverse effect of deficiency. If they don’t have enough data to pin down an RDA, then they give they estimate the AI - a nutritional safety level in the absence of specific knowledge.

Either way, these numbers are establishing minimums to avoid symptoms of deficiency. They’re not designed or intended to be a target for optimum health. (Although this is slowly changing; recommendation boards in several countries are slowly beginning to move towards pushing the numbers away from the minima and towards what make for a healthier population.)

The UL is a level that has some negative consequence - but the consequence varies. Sometimes it’s extremely minor, other times it’s potentially very serious.

I like the examples of niacin and manganese.

Niacin is a water-soluble B vitamin (aka B3). The RDA for men is 16 mg, based on prevention of deficiency. As a water-soluble vitamin, it’s easily flushed out of your blood and should be replaced daily, no matter how much you take in. The UL 35 mg. Here’s where it gets interesting… the primary adverse effect of going over 35 mg is the possibility of “niacin flush…” a temporary reddening or itching of the skin when your capillaries expand. Most people quickly acclimate to a higher intake of niacin, unless the dose becomes very, very high. Meanwhile, medical literature has been finding more and more areas where additional niacin is helpful as a preventative or a treatment for a variety of diseases, including control of high blood cholesterol. To treat high cholesterol, it is administered at up to 1500 mg per day! At this dose, most people still acclimate and stop getting the niacin flush, but a small fraction have a recurring problem with it and discontinue treatment. The others seem to have no adverse effect. Bear this in mind when considering if RDA + 40% is an appropriate safety margin for niacin.

Now think about manganese, a naturally-occurring mineral. It may be in your water, as well as your food. The AI for manganese for adults is 2.3 mg. The UL is 11 mg. There are definite toxicity effects from getting a massive dose of manganese, and they’re well-known from people who get environmental exposure (for example, a welder who breathes in a lot of manganese.) But those amounts are wildly higher than 11 mg. You can get 200 or 300 mg of manganese per day and have no effect for months or years. Why the 11 mg limit?

Because manganese tends to accumulate in the brain. Your body can dispose of manganese in parts of the body - like the bloodstream - but once it gets into the brain, it tends to stay put. And when it builds up, it leads to a variety of serious neurological conditions - but it can take decades to build up to that point. So the 11 mg UL is based not on what level might hurt you today or tomorrow - it’s a limit that’s intended to keep you safe over a lifetime of food (and water) consumption. And we do not have any evidence for benefits to magnesium beyond the very small amount that the body needs - so there’s no known benefit from getting more than 2.3 mg. Why take any risk?

These two examples, niacin and manganese, are interesting to me because of their wildly different profiles - one has benefits from exceeding the RDA, and almost no risk. The upper limit is placed well below levels known to have health benefits, based on a minor but noticeable flush. The other has no benefit from exceeding the AI, and enormous long-term risk. If you exceed the UL for niacin by just a little, you might notice a flush in just an hour, but there’s no real health risk; if you exceed the the UL for manganese by a lot, you probably won’t notice a thing, but you’re playing a long-term game of Russian Roulette with debilitating mental disorders.

They’re also interesting because many health-oriented multivitamin formulas exceed the RDA for niacin (you can see why). At the same time, many contain no manganese, or very little. I take a very high-potency formula which provides 190 mg of niacin (950%!) - I never had a flush reaction and am comfortable with this. It also provides 1mg of manganese (50%), and sometimes I wish it didn’t even have that - because my DIY soylent is oat-based, and oats naturally contain a lot of manganese that the plant pulls from the soil. I get 6.28 mg from my oat flour, for a total of 7.28 mg - still less than the UL of 11 mg, but already at 317% of the AI. I wish it were lower, so I think I’m going to make alternate DIY recipes based on masa instead of oats, to alternate. (The other option is to use less oats and more maltodextrin, my recipe uses more oats than official Soylent.)

This might also suggest to you part of the reason why supps are not offered all individually. You need to do a lot of education on each vitamin and mineral if you really want to dial in your own - and it would be expensive to manage that many ingredients in the supply chain, both for you and the providers. But a good multivitamin mix will already take that knowledge into account - holding back on the risky stuff, and giving you extra of the beneficial stuff.

If you do decide to delve into each nutrient, I’m a big fan of the LPI Micronutrient Information Center site for good, well-referenced, accurate information. It’s an excellent starting point.


#11

One thing I found interesting is that somewhat recently the USDA’s DRI calculator was updated to include carotenoids. They don’t provide a DRI or UL yet but they do at least mention it now. I’m guessing the category is so wide they won’t be able to give specific numbers without making it its own micronutrient group. I’ve been planning for a while now to add carotenoids to my DIY and will when I get my next paycheck.

If you check out the DRI glossary you will notice it was updated yesterday. I also briefly heard on the news this morning that the USDA is posting updated recommendations. I didn’t hear exactly what was being changed but I look forward to hearing more as time goes on.


#12

Its a nice start. I hope other phytonutrients get their due too.


#13

Thanks, @horsfield, that’s right in line with the theme of moving towards advocating for health, as opposed to merely avoiding malnutrition.

Many beneficial things will have no RDI or even an Adequate Intake, because they are not essential at all but they are definitely beneficial.

It will be interesting to see what makes the cut, in what order.


#14

@MentalNomad, thanks a lot for the examples and explanation, that was very educational!

Here’s how I am creating a DIY recipe with (over)dosage I am comfortable with.

  1. Create custom nutrient profile (copy of US DRI male 19-50, 2000 calories)
  2. Modify values according to results from USDA’s DRI calculator (thanks, @horsfield)
  3. Copy people’s chow recipe, apply my custom nutrient profile
  4. Google toxicity/overdose information on every item that is > 200% DRI, further modify my custom nutrient profile setting hard max limits
  5. Modify custom recipe to make it pass new custom nutrient profile limits
  6. Substitute components unavailable locally with ones that are
  7. [After first test] Further experiment with components if taste or effects are not desirable

So far my recipe lacks around 50-20% DRI of a couple vitamins and minerals, but I intend to substitute only half of my meals with it so it is tolerable.


#15

Good plan.

Although it will probably be obvious along the way, you should also pay special attention to any micronutrient that turns red in the panel below the ingredients editor - red means it’s over the UL (sugested upper limit.)

I find that if I have more than one nutrient profile, the bottom half of the page does not “update” when I edit the top. If you have this problem, this solves it for me:

  1. Hit “save” in the top section to make sure the latest ingredient edit is saved.
  2. Below the ingredients, hit “Change” next to the nutrient profile.
  3. Pick the very same nutrient profile, and hit “Go.” This makes the numbers below update themselves.

Have fun!


#16

Thanks again!
You are right, after I had set new upper limits, I had to tweak few ingredients that became red (#5 on my list).


the bottom half of the page does not “update”

I do have the same problem, and your solution works. It would be better if bottom part auto-updated like the values in top part. Summoning @nickp :smile: (please see @MentalNomad post above for a complete description).


#17

Google toxicity/overdose information for every item and then adjust your quantities accordingly.