307: Daily Value Nutrition Label is WORTHLESS (Here’s Why)

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Nutrition labels should make your diet + nutrition choices easier, but sometimes they do they exact opposite. And that’s the case when it comes to the Daily Value Nutrition Label (often listed as Daily Value %).

Over the last few months, I’ve repeatedly seen the Daily Value nutrition label used or discussed in ways that just don’t make sense.

As well as people who are afraid to take a particular supplement we might recommend to them because the Daily Value looks like an astronomical number.

And that’s troubling for me as a nutrition professional who firmly believes that the Daily Value % (%DV) is misleading and, frankly, total garbage.

Since these values are so confusing to people in general as well as my community, I figured it was time to set the record straight.

My hope is that you’ll see how pointless this required section is on a US nutrition label + why you should never, ever bother using it as a guide for diet + nutrition choices.

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In this episode:

  • Why the Daily Value Nutrition Label on food + supplements should be ignored
  • History of the Daily Value nutrition label + the RDA (important context!)
  • Concerns from industry experts about lobbyist influence over nutrition information
  • Real-life example showing why the Daily Value is worthless
  • Huge problems with the Daily Value nutrition label


What you need to know is that the RDA is supposed to be used as a metric or goal of nutrient intake specifically for healthy individuals – not those who are sick or chronically ill.

The Daily Value is misleading because an amount higher than 100% could scare someone that they were potentially overconsuming that nutrient.


woman reading daily value nutrition label in store aisle

307: Why the Daily Value  Nutrition Label is WORTHLESS (FULL TRANSCRIPT)

Welcome back to episode #307 of the Healthy Skin Show!

In today’s episode, I want to talk about the confusing nutrition labels on food products in the US. These required labels seem helpful on the surface, but what’s frustrating as a nutrition professional is that some of the information required to be on these labels – specifically the Daily Value – is not only confusing, but also pretty pointless.

Most people assume that information listed on a nutrition label is important + accurate.

Those numbers listed are there to help you make healthy food choices based on various health goals + to understand what may be more nutritious compared to something else.

But while the intention is to be helpful, the Daily Value nutrition label information is total garbage.

Not only does it mislead people (and even medical professionals lacking nutrition training) to believe their diet is healthier than it is, but it also scares people into thinking that they’re consuming too much of a particular nutrient because the Daily Value looks astronomical.

So I want to explain how the Daily Value has evolved since its inception in 1968 + why following it is one of the worst moves you can make in terms of your diet and nutrition.

I know these are strong words and might sound like I’m being melodramatic or sensational, but I’m not.

The Daily Value is literally THAT bad.

So let’s talk about it!


Woman explaining how daily value nutrition label was created

How The Daily Value Was Created

To provide context to my sentiments on why the Daily Value is so pointless, we need to look at the historical evolution of the Daily Value, when and how it was created as well as the role it was supposed to serve.

I don’t want you to just take my word for it – I want you to understand where I + other nutrition professionals who are critical of the Daily Value nutrition label are coming from.

Not just parrot soundbites that may do well on social media, but ultimately do nothing to help you make smarter choices.

Or to know why a medical or nutrition professional’s recommendations are valid (or potentially rooted in inaccurate information).

So in order to discover some key points (and problems) about the Daily Value, we have to jump back to 1941 when the US National Research Council was tasked with helping to establish a guide to follow in the hopes of avoiding “malnutrition or starvation” from “war or economic depression.”(1,2)

This is where the Daily Recommended Intake (DRI) for nutrients and ultimately the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for different nutrients comes from.

If you’re not familiar with what an RDA is, it is “the average daily dietary intake level that is sufficient to meet the nutrient requirement of nearly all (97 to 98 percent) healthy individuals in a particular gender and life stage group (life stage considers age and, when applicable, pregnancy or lactation).”(1,3)

Keep in mind that not all nutrients have RDAs which are based on the Estimated Average Requirement (EAR).(3)

What you need to know is that the RDA is supposed to be used as a metric or goal of nutrient intake specifically for healthy individuals – not those who are sick or chronically ill.

AND they were intended to maintain “good health” based on the concept of consuming the minimum amount of a specific nutrient to avoid getting sick or disease.(1,3) Talk about setting the bar low + shooting for a C- just to pass a test – that’s essentially what I’d compare the RDA to.

And the RDAs were originally created based on data from adult men from the 1940s.(1,4)

Granted the RDAs are reviewed + revised every 5 to 10 years, but there are many, including myself, who would argue that the levels are still too low + not actually in line with maintaining optimum health.

From the RDA, the Daily Value or Daily Value % was created in 1968 with a few additions in 1989.(4)

When the FDA started requiring nutrition labeling in 1972, nutrition scientists felt that the Daily Values would be a good addition even though the data behind calculating these numbers were based only on a standard for adult men.(4)


food lobbyists in a committee meeting creating daily value nutrition label

Food Lobbyists + Data Manipulation on Nutrition Labels

In 2015, growing concern began to boil over to a more public outcry about the US government’s involvement in nutrition guidance after the release of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.(5)

While the government stated that the shifts were based on the latest research, experts felt that the changes were likely swayed by lobbyists + industry influence.

In an article published in Time Magazine, Dr. Walter Willett who was the chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health stated that “the current system opens the guidelines up to lobbying and manipulation of data.”(6)

And Dr. Marion Nestle, a former chair of the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, also shared that “There’s a great deal of money at stake in what these guidelines say.”(6)

Even Dr. Robert Lustig who I interviewed on the show HERE found that the 2015 guidelines to “eat more carbs and avoid fat is exactly backwards if you want to improve health and lower body weight.”(6)

I share this to point out that there are a variety of concerns that have been growing over time with how the US government handles nutrition recommendations.

So back to the Daily Value saga…

It wasn’t until 2020 that the Daily Value nutrition label numbers got officially updated.(7)

So until that point, the information on all nutrition labels was basically from 1968 + 1972. That’s at least 48 years of no updates despite nearly 5 decades of more nuanced nutrition data!

Some changes made to the Daily Values by the FDA in 2020 included removing Vitamins A + C from being mandatory to list on labels.(4,8)

Additionally, some nutrients saw their Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) shift higher or lower on a variety of vitamins + minerals as well as a shift in Daily Value for fiber.(8)

And so you’re not confused when you see Daily Value % (%DV) on a label, this value is the amount of a specific nutrient in a single serving of this particular food that will ultimately be added into your total daily diet.(9)

The Daily Value nutrition label % information assumes that you consume a 2000-calorie diet.(9)


Woman reading daily value nutrition label in grocery store

Why The Daily Value Nutrition Label is Worthless

So what happens when you look at a specific nutrient like Vitamin B12 on the nutrition panel and the Daily Value is listed as 250%?

Does that mean that one serving of the food product or food has an astronomical amount of B12 in it?

It sure does look like it!

Especially if you don’t look at the actual amount of B12 in the serving, but even then you’d need to know that the actual amount of B12 in this product is minimal!

daily value nutrition label example

As a real-life example, I looked at the B12 in an energy drink. I’ll add the graphic in the show notes so you can see what I’m talking about. The Daily Value for B12 on the nutrition label clocks in at 250% + yet the actual amount is listed at 6 mcg (which for the record is a very small amount).

So in reality, the Daily Value nutrition label is misleading because it’s entirely possible that an amount higher than 100% would scare someone into thinking that they were potentially overconsuming that nutrient.

This is really silly once you learn that the Daily Value is actually based on the minimum amount of a nutrient necessary for a healthy person to avoid illness.


daily value nutrition label on supplement bottle

Additional problems with the Daily Value Nutrition Label include:

  1. No differentiation between ages is made since the %DV is assumed to be the same for everyone age 4 and up. Last time I checked, I’m not 4 years old (and I assume that you’re not 4 years old either) + so I think it’s safe to assume that my nutritional needs are different throughout my life. Nutritional needs do in fact shift at different life stages so this type of one-size-fits-all approach falls short.
  2. Basing the %DV on a 2000-calorie diet is also a problem when we factor in activity level + age ranges. Even in children we see a huge variation between a moderately active boy age 6-8 years old who should consume around 1600 calories vs a 14-17 year old boy who needs closer to 2400 to 2800 calories daily.(10)
  3. Studies on the use of the DV% show that most people struggle with understanding + applying percentages so that would make it more difficult for people to figure out when they’ve actually hit their nutrient goals on any given day.(4)
  4. The Daily Value nutrition label provides a false sense of getting optimal nutrition – especially if you’re chronically ill. Most of the Daily Values for various nutrients are far lower than I would recommend to clients or even potentially a healthy individual.

Basically, the Daily Value nutrition label is shooting for the lowest level you need to avoid illness.

Why is THAT something to aim for?

It seems absolutely ridiculous and sad that in this day + age with all of the technology we have at our fingertips that US nutrition recommendations have anchored a 100% value based on the bare minimum.

So with all this said, ignore the entire Daily Value % column on food labels.

Don’t use it to guide any sort of nutritional decision especially when it comes to nutrient intake.

I never bother to look at it as a clinical nutritionist for these exact reasons.

Save yourself from wasting the time + energy of giving any sort of credence or power to these numbers especially when its goal is to help you just barely not get sick.

If you’ve got any questions or thoughts to share about this, leave a comment below so I can address them.

Thank you so much for tuning in and I look forward to digging deeper with you in the next episode!


Woman reaching for reference books in library researching the daily value nutrition label


1. https://www.bmj.com/content/361/bmj.k2392

2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK236754/

3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK45182/#:~:text=The%20Recommended%20Dietary%20Allowance%20(RDA,applicable%2C%20pregnancy%20or%20lactation).

4, https://jn.nutrition.org/article/S0022-3166(22)08461-9/fulltext

5. https://health.gov/our-work/nutrition-physical-activity/dietary-guidelines/previous-dietary-guidelines/2015

6. https://time.com/4130043/lobbying-politics-dietary-guidelines/

7. https://www.fda.gov/media/134505/download

8. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/new-nutrition-facts-label-2020

9. https://www.fda.gov/food/new-nutrition-facts-label/whats-new-nutrition-facts-label

10. https://www.verywellfamily.com/weight-management-guide-2632244#:~:text=Moderately%20active%20boys%20should%20consume,to%202%2C800%20calories%20each%20day


daily value nutrition label -- What you need to know is that the RDA is supposed to be used as a metric or goal of nutrient intake specifically for healthy individuals – not those who are sick or chronically ill.

Jennifer Fugo, MS, CNS

Jennifer Fugo, MS, CNS is an integrative Clinical Nutritionist and the founder of Skinterrupt. She works with women who are fed up with chronic gut and skin rash issues discover the root causes and create a plan to get them back to a fuller, richer life.

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