Do you take vitamins/minerals or other supplements? If so, you’re probably much more familiar with “RDA” (recommended, or reference, daily allowance) than “UL.”
UL stands for Upper Limits.
They’re defined by the National Institute of Health as “the highest level of nutrient intake that is likely to pose no risk of adverse health effects for almost all individuals in the general population.”
With many foods now being fortified, and OlderBeast readers likely taking a multi-vitamin/mineral…you’re probably getting your RDAs. (Though if you don’t use dairy products and don’t take supplements, be wary of a potential Vitamin D need you may not be meeting).
But what about TOO MUCH of a vitamin, mineral or trace element? While some smart people argue UL’s for some things are too conservative, to me, you should at least know if you’re near / above UL’s. You can then learn more and decide what to do about it.
EXAMPLE of HOW EASY IT IS TO UNKNOWINGLY EXCEED UL’S
Personal example: My one-a-day has the 15 mg RDA of zinc. Based on recommendations of people whose opinion I respect, I added a standalone 20 mg zinc tablet to my daily regime, to improve immunity and for “men’s” type benefits. The UL for zinc is 40 mg, so the 35 mg that these two pills added up to was fine (I’m explaining this now, but wasn’t tracking any of this at the time).
But then I added a “prostate health” supplement containing saw palmetto and African pygeum. (I confess to the onset of an “older man” malady: more frequent bathroom trips, especially at night. These herbs target that issue).
I took it for a few days. Then I just happened to look more closely at the label and saw it also contained 33 mg of zinc, now putting me at 68 mg of zinc per day! And I get zinc from my diet, too, since I eat beef, chicken and chickpeas (high-zinc foods, among others).
So including these new pills in my routine, I was 40+% over the UL for daily zinc.
Most experts say too much zinc over the long term can cause digestive and other problems. So, I’ve dropped the standalone zinc supplement and switched to a lower-zinc prostate-health pill, which gets me back under 40 mg a day.
The example above is just one of a whole bunch of ways this can happen to a well-meaning health seeker. Zinc in particular is a “popular” ingredient in various supplements, so there might be extra risk there. For example, some of the most popular and recommended “eye health” supplements contain, just themselves, over the zinc UL. Then imagine where you end up if you add that to a one-a-day, possibly other supplements with zinc, and food-based zinc.
You interested in what the UL’s are for vitamins and minerals, and how the total of what you’re taking compares to that? Here’s an age-specific chart with UL info and some useful commentary on different vitamins, minerals and trace elements.
Visit this website, grab the supplements you have sitting in your medicine cabinet or pantry, and see if you have any “adding up to TOO much” situations like I did.
“Ground Control to Major Tom. Take your protein pills and put your helmet on.” (David Bowie, Space Oddity — click to listen)
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