Recommended Dietary Allowance

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The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is an estimate of the minimum daily average dietary intake level that meets the nutrient requirements of nearly all (97 to 98 percent) healthy individuals in a particular life stage and gender group (see Figure 1-1). The RDA is intended to be used as a goal for daily intake by individuals as this value estimates an intake level that has a high probability of meeting the requirement of a randomly chosen individual (about 97.5 percent). The process for setting the RDA is described below; it depends on being able to set an EAR and estimating the variance of the requirement itself. Note that if an EAR cannot be set due to limitations of the data available, no RDA will be set.

This approach differs somewhat from that used by the World Health Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization, and International Atomic Energy Agency (WHO/FAO/IAEA) Expert Consultation on Trace Elements in Human Nutrition and Health (WHO, 1996). That publication uses the term basal requirement to indicate the level of intake needed to prevent pathologically relevant and clinically detectable signs of a dietary inadequacy. The term normative requirement indicates the level of intake sufficient to maintain a desirable body store, or reserve. In developing an RDA (and Adequate Intake [AI], see below), emphasis is placed instead on the reasons underlying the choice of the criterion of nutritional adequacy used to establish the requirement. It is not designated as basal or normative.

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