Steps Toward International Consensus

An issue that is obvious in any consideration of how best to approach estimating human requirements is the need to achieve consensus on the best science-based approaches to determine them. Internationally, the diversity of requirement estimates might mislead one to assume there was significant variability in nutrient needs based on geographic location or genetic makeup. As more information regarding the role that genetic factors play in disease becomes available, the variability seen in actual requirements will diminish. There will continue to be a need to recognize and use information about nutrient bioavailability, which may well be different for diets based on different foods and staples and thus require different reference values for such varied situations, but human physiology is remarkably similar.

Harmonizing approaches to reviewing data and achieving consensus among scientists is an impor tant first step to deriving truly borderless reference values that represent differences that are physiologically and genotypically related rather than culturally related.

Efforts to harmonize are ongoing in a number of settings. Germanic language countries now have joint reference values; Australia and New Zealand are working on joint reference intakes, as are nutritionists in Southeast Asia; countries in the European Union have plans for increasing such joint deliberations beyond the activities involved in developing upper levels; and the United Nations, through the coordinating efforts of the United Nations University, is initiating extragovernmental discussion of basic issues involved in evaluating the human data that serve as the basis for establishing requirements and reference values. All these activities are in the beginning stages. With the enhanced level of communication due to computers and the Internet, such efforts are feasible as well as critical to undertake.

See also: Antioxidants: Diet and Antioxidant Defense. Bioavailability. Dietary Guidelines, International Perspectives. Dietary Intake Measurement: Methodology; Validation. Dietary Surveys. Energy: Balance; Requirements; Adaptation. Food Composition Data. Food Fortification: Developed Countries. Functional Foods: Regulatory Aspects. Nutritional Surveillance: Developed Countries; Developing Countries. Phytochemicals: Epidemiological Factors. World Health Organization.

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