Approach For Setting Dietary Reference Intakes

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The scientific data used to develop Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) have come from observational and experimental studies. Studies published in peer-reviewed journals were the principal source of data. Life stage and gender were considered to the extent possible, but the data did not provide a basis for proposing different requirements for men, for pregnant and nonlactating women, and for nonpregnant and nonlactating women in different age groups for many of the macronutrients. Three of the categories of reference the values—the Estimated Average Requirement (EAR), Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), and Estimated Energy Requirement (EER)—are defined by specific criteria of nutrient adequacy; the third, the Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL), is defined by a specific endpoint of adverse effect, when one is available (see Box S-1). In all cases, data were examined closely to determine whether a functional endpoint could be used as a criterion of adequacy. The quality of studies was examined by considering study design; methods used for measuring intake and indicators of adequacy; and biases, interactions, and confounding factors.

Although the reference values are based on data, the data were often scanty or drawn from studies that had limitations in addressing the various questions that confronted the panel. Therefore, many of the questions raised about the requirements for, and recommended intakes of, these macronutrients cannot be answered fully because of inadequacies in the present database. Apart from studies of overt deficiency diseases, there is a


BOX S-1 Dietary Reference Intakes

Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA): the average daily dietary nutrient intake level sufficient to meet the nutrient requirement of nearly all (97 to 98 percent) healthy individuals in a particular life stage and gender group.

Adequate Intake (AI): the recommended average daily intake level based on observed or experimentally determined approximations or estimates of nutrient intake by a group (or groups) of apparently healthy people that are assumed to be adequate—used when an RDA cannot be determined.

Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL): the highest average daily nutrient intake level that is likely to pose no risk of adverse health effects to almost all individuals in the general population. As intake increases above the UL, the potential risk of adverse effects may increase.

Estimated Average Requirement (EAR): the average daily nutrient intake level estimated to meet the requirement of half the healthy individuals in a particular life stage and gender group.a a In the case of energy, an Estimated Energy Requirement (EER) is provided. The EER is the average dietary energy intake that is predicted to maintain energy balance in a healthy adult of a defined age, gender, weight, height, and level of physical activity consistent with good health. In children and pregnant and lactating women, the EER is taken to include the needs associated with the deposition of tissues or the secretion of milk at rates consistent with good health.

dearth of studies that address specific effects of inadequate intakes on specific indicators of health status, and a research agenda is proposed (see Chapter 14). The reasoning used to establish the values is described for each nutrient in Chapters 5 through 10. While the various recommendations are provided as single-rounded numbers for practical considerations, it is acknowledged that these values imply a precision not fully justified by the underlying data in the case of currently available human studies.

Except for fiber, the scientific evidence related to the prevention of chronic degenerative disease was judged to be too nonspecific to be used as the basis for setting any of the recommended levels of intake for the nutrients. The indicators used in deriving the EARs, and thus the RDAs, are described below.


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