Do children need less nutrients than adults because they’re smaller, or do they need more nutrients than adults because they’re growing? Hi. I’m Dr. Chris Masterjohn of And this is Chris Masterjohn Lite, where the name of the game is “Details? Shmeetails. Just tell me what works!” And today we’re going to talk about the nutritional requirements of children. Quite frequently the RDA for children is just adjusted downward according to body weight from the adult RDAs, and there are some exceptions to this. So, for example during puberty the calcium RDA is actually higher to account for the rapid growth and the deposition of mineral into bone during that time. So, there are cases where it’s been well studied that children have higher nutritional needs. It’s just that most of the time when you see that the RDA for children is lower than it is for adults and that there aren’t any exceptions during puberty or during any other growth phases during childhood, it’s almost universally going to be the case that the way they got those lower values is they adjusted downward by body weight. And it’s probably universally the case that when they’ve done that, it was based on theoretical concerns. It made some sense, but there was no good data to use body weight or energy intake or anything else to extrapolate from the adult values, and that’s just what they chose because they needed to choose something. There’s an element here that doesn’t compute right because quite often during certain phases of childhood, a child will eat more than an adult will. And you would think if you’re looking at the RDAs, when you’re looking at the ones that are scaled down by body weight, you’d look at them and you’d say, if I have a child who’s half my size and who’s eating twice as much food as me, the RDA is dropped by about half, so they can eat a diet that is one-quarter as nutrient-dense as mine. And that’s getting into an area where it just doesn’t make any sense, right? Because it doesn’t make sense that if children are rapidly growing that they need a smaller amount of nutritious food and then we can put more junk in to fill up the caloric balance of what they’re going to eat. And I’m not suggesting that the RDA was designed with that in mind to try to make a situation where children are going to be eating a lot of junk. I think it clearly wasn’t. However, that is one of the results of scaling down by body weight. So, what I would do if I were managing the nutrition of a child if I had children is, I would look at the RDAs for the children and see if they are higher than they are for the adults. As a general rule of thumb, if they’re higher, it’s because there was some data to support that. As a general rule of thumb, if they’re lower, it’s because there wasn’t any good data, and they were scaled down by body weight. So, in the cases where they’re lower and they’re scaled down by body weight, I’m going to look at those and I’m going to say, well, instead of looking at the RDA that is for the children, I’m going to take the adult RDA, and I’m going to scale it according to energy intake. Why? Because that way I know that if my child is eating twice as much food because they’re investing so much energy in growth, then I feel rather confident that they are meeting the needs for the vitamins and minerals to fuel that growth alongside the need for calories to fuel that growth. So, what I would do is I would say, okay, the average adult consuming the adult RDA is going to be eating 2,000 calories on a calorie-adequate diet. And that’s going to vary from person to person, obviously not everyone eats that, but it’s a fairly good benchmark. And so I would then adjust according to calorie intake. If my child is eating 1,500 calories, then I would multiply the adult RDA by 75%. If my child is eating 3,000 calories, I’m going to multiply the adult RDA by 50%. And I think what we will generally find when we do that is that that basically keeps us in check to make sure that we’re feeding the child a nutrient-dense diet. And I’m not saying we should be running to supplements to add to boost up the intake. What I’m really saying is, we want to focus on feeding children highly nutritious foods to the point where naturally the foods in the diet lead them to be consuming what would be an RDA that matches the caloric intake for an adult. So, to summarize, if the childhood RDA is higher than the adult RDA, I would follow the childhood RDA. If the childhood RDA is lower than the adult RDA, I would take the adult RDA, I would assume that it’s matching a 2,000-calorie diet, and then I would adjust it for the amount of calories that my child is eating. I would try to make sure that that adjusted RDA is being met by foods rather than supplements, and with both children and adults, I would say, make the foundation of your diet foods, and then use supplements only in a targeted, specific manner when you’re going after specific health goals or trying to solve specific health problems where using those supplements makes sense. This episode is brought to you by Ancestral Supplements living collagen. Our Native American ancestors believed that eating the organs from a healthy animal would support the health of the corresponding organ of the individual. 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For ad-free versions of these episodes with transcripts that you can read and getting early access to the episodes often weeks or maybe even months ahead of time, you can sign up for the CMJ Masterpass at And use the code: LITE10 to get 10% lifetime discount. The audio of this episode was enhanced and post-processed by Bob Davodian of Taurean Mixing. You can find more of his work at All right, I hope you found this useful. Signing off, this is Chris Masterjohn of This has been Chris Masterjohn Lite. And I will see you in the next episode.