An assessment of the recommended dietary allowances for calories for young women
Saletta, Christine Hanley
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Weight maintenance in relation to recommended caloric allowance was studied in young women, 19 - 22 years of age. Subjects were 30 female Northern Illinois University nutrition students, with similar activity levels. They were asked to record all food intake for three non-consecutive days per week, for a period of seven weeks. Weight and height measurements were determined at the beginning of the study, followed by weekly weighings for a period of seven weeks. The daily mean caloric intake was compared with the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for calories for each subject, and the percentage of the RDA consumed was calculated. Weight change was determined by comparing the mean weight of the second four-week period with that of the first four-week period for each subject. The correlation coefficient was 0.42 between the weight change and the variation of caloric intake from the recommended caloric allowance for each subject. It was significant at p < 0.01. It was found that only 13% of the subjects consumed 100% or more of their recommended caloric allowance and had a mean weight gain of 0.2 lbs. Eighty-seven percent consumed 47 - 91% of their energy allowance according to the RDA, with a mean weight loss of 0.8 lbs. The largest amount of weight loss was 2.7 lbs by one subject who consumed only 61% of her caloric allowance. In contrast, a subject who consumed only 47% of her RDA for calories had no change in weight over the eight week period. Since a deficit of 3,500 calories would lead to a loss of one pound of body fat, a much greater weight loss was expected based on the reported amount of calories consumed by these 30 subjects. Based on the observations in this study, it appears that the recommended allowances for calories for young women are higher than needed to maintain weight. It is recognized that the RDAs in general are intended to be used as guidelines for populations, rather than for individuals. However, it would seem useful to continue to re-evaluate the recommended energy allowances, particularly in view of the increased problem of obesity in our society.