What are NRVs and are they important?
The world of supplements is full of complicated terms which isn’t helpful when you just want to buy a good quality supplement and look after your health. NRVs is one area where there’s plenty of confusion so here we explain what they mean, what they relate to, and how you should view them.
We also recommend reading '7 ingredients in supplements to avoid'.
What does NRV stand for?
You may see on supplement labels a column with percentages of something called NRV. NRV stands for Nutrient Reference Value. It used to be called RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) but has changed to NRV.
What does the NRV refer to?
The NRV refers to the absolute minimum amount of a certain vitamin or mineral that an average healthy person needs to get in their diet. To put this into context, the first NRV for Vitamin C was set as the minimum requirement to prevent scurvy!
The minimum can also vary enormously. For example, the minimum NRV for a smoker can be more than 40% higher than for a non-smoker, and NRVs vary from country to country depending on climate, lifestyles and diet. There are NRVs set for 13 vitamins and 14 minerals.
Are NRVs important?
NRVs were first introduced in around 1943. They were introduced to help the general public understand the minimum amount of a nutrient they should obtain to help prevent a serious health conditions such as rickets, caused by a deficiency in Vitamin D, and in this respect they are important.
However NRVs are not a target to reach – they’re an absolute minimum you should receive through a varied and balanced diet in order to prevent these health conditions.
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How do I know if I’m getting the NRV of each nutrient each day?
Most foods provide a chart online stating how much of each nutrient is in that food per portion. You could log every single food you eat but frankly that’s impractical so the best way to get all your nutrients is to follow a healthy and varied diet full of plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains.
However, foods are not as nutritious as they used to be. In fact, levels of vitamins and minerals can be 40% lower than they were 30 years ago. Many factors also affect individual requirements such as the type of diet you have, how active you are, age, weight, alcohol intake, a diet high in sugar or refined carbs, digestive problems, prescription medications, illness and stress levels, and more.
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Why do supplements have higher amounts than the NRV?
The NRV amounts are the absolute minimum levels to prevent a deficiency and illness. Higher percentage NRVs will provide optimal levels for good health. Most vitamins and minerals are water soluble which means they’re easily excreted by your body through urine.
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Written by Shona Wilkinson, Registered Nutritionist, mBANT, CNHC
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