Dietary Reference Intake

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The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) is a system of nutrition recommendations from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies (United States).[1] It was introduced in 1997 in order to broaden the existing guidelines known as Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs, see below). The DRI values differ from those used in nutrition labeling in the U.S. and Canada, which uses Reference Daily Intakes (RDIs) and Daily Values (%DV) based on outdated RDAs from 1968.[2]

The DRI provides several different types of reference value:[1]

  • Estimated Average Requirements (EAR), expected to satisfy the needs of 50% of the people in that age group based on a review of the scientific literature.
  • Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA), the daily dietary intake level of a nutrient considered sufficient by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine to meet the requirements of 97.5% of healthy individuals in each life-stage and sex group. It is calculated based on the EAR and is usually approximately 20% higher than the EAR (See Calculating the RDA).
  • Adequate Intake (AI), where no RDA has been established, but the amount established is somewhat less firmly believed to be adequate for everyone in the demographic group.
  • Tolerable upper intake levels (UL), to caution against excessive intake of nutrients (like vitamin A) that can be harmful in large amounts. This is the highest level of daily consumption that current data have shown to cause no side effects in humans when used indefinitely without medical supervision.
  • Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Ranges (AMDR), a range of intake specified as a percentage of total energy intake. Used for sources of energy, such as fats and carbohydrates.

The DRI is used by both the United States and Canada and is intended for the general public and health professionals. Applications include:

  • Composition of diets for schools, prisons, hospitals or nursing homes
  • Industries developing new food stuffs
  • Healthcare policy makers and public health officials


The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) was developed during World War II by Lydia J. Roberts, Hazel Stiebeling, and Helen S. Mitchell, all part of a committee established by the United States National Academy of Sciences in order to investigate issues of nutrition that might "affect national defense".[3]

The committee was renamed the Food and Nutrition Board in 1941, after which they began to deliberate on a set of recommendations of a standard daily allowance for each type of nutrient. The standards would be used for nutrition recommendations for the armed forces, for civilians, and for overseas population who might need food relief. Roberts, Stiebeling, and Mitchell surveyed all available data, created a tentative set of allowances for "energy and eight nutrients", and submitted them to experts for review (Nestle, 35).

The final set of guidelines, called RDAs for Recommended Dietary Allowances, were accepted in 1941. The allowances were meant to provide superior nutrition for civilians and military personnel, so they included a "margin of safety." Because of food rationing during the war, the food guides created by government agencies to direct citizens' nutritional intake also took food availability into account.

The Food and Nutrition Board subsequently revised the RDAs every five to ten years. In the early 1950s, United States Department of Agriculture nutritionists made a new set of guidelines that also included the number of servings of each food group in order to make it easier for people to receive their RDAs of each nutrient.

The DRI was introduced in 1997 in order to broaden the existing system of RDAs.

Current recommendations[edit]

The current DRI values differ from those used in nutrition labeling in the U.S. and Canada, which uses Reference Daily Intakes (RDIs) and Daily Values (%DV) based on RDAs from 1968.[2]

Vitamins and minerals[edit]

EARs, RDA/AIs and ULs for an average healthy 44-year-old male are shown below. EARs shown as "NE" have not yet been established or not yet evaluated. ULs shown as "ND" could not be determined, and it is recommended that intake from these nutrients be from food only, to prevent adverse effects. Amounts and "ND" status for other age and gender groups, pregnant women, lactating women, and breastfeeding infants may be much different.[4]

Nutrient EAR RDA/AI UL[5] Unit Top Sources in Common Measures, USDA[6]
Vitamin A 625 900 3000 µg turkey and chicken giblets, liver, carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato
Vitamin C 75 90 2000 mg guavas, oranges, grapefruits, frozen peaches, [i] bell peppers
Vitamin D[8] 10 15 100 µg fortified cereals, mushrooms, yeast, sockeye salmon, swordfish, rainbow trout, sardines, cod liver oil (also fortified foods and beverages)
Vitamin K NE 120 ND µg kale, collards, spinach, yellow split peas, white beans, green peas, brussel sprouts, prunes, asparagus
Vitamin B6 1.1 1.3 100 mg fortified cereals, chickpeas, sockeye salmon
α-tocopherol (Vitamin E) 12 15 1000 mg fortified cereals, tomato paste, sunflower seeds
Biotin (B7) NE 30 ND µg whole grains, almonds, peanuts, beef liver, egg yolk, salmon[9]
Calcium[8] 800 1000 2500 mg fortified cereals, collards, almonds, condensed cow's milk, cheese, figs
Chloride NE 2300 3600 mg table salt
Chromium NE 35 ND µg broccoli, turkey ham, tuna, grape juice[10]
Choline NE 550 3500 mg egg yolk, meats, lecithin, beef liver, condensed milk, quinoa, salmon, cod
Copper 700 900 10000 µg sunflower seeds, oysters, lobster, cashews, dark chocolate, pearled barley
Cyanocobalamin (B12) 2.0 2.4 ND µg fortified cereals, turkey, clams, beef, egg yolk, sardines, tuna fish, mackerel
Fluoride NE 4 10 mg public drinking water, where fluoridation is performed or natural fluorides are present
Folate (B9) 320 400 1000 µg leafy greens, enriched white rice, fortified cereals, enriched cornmeal
Iodine 95 150 1100 µg iodized salt, kelp, cod
Iron 6 8 45 mg fortified cereals, turkey, walnuts, dark chocolate, spinach
Magnesium 330 400 350[ii] mg buckwheat flour, rolled oats, spinach, almonds, dark chocolate, bulgur, quinoa
Manganese NE 2.3 11 mg oat bran, whole grain wheat flour, bulgur, rolled oats, brown rice, parboiled rice, dark chocolate
Molybdenum 34 45 2000 µg legumes, grain products, green peas, nuts and seeds[12]
Niacin (B3) 12 16 35 mg fortified cereals, yellowfin tuna, sockeye salmon, chicken meat
Pantothenic acid (B5) NE 5 ND mg fortified cereals, beef liver, shiitake mushrooms
Phosphorus 580 700 4000 mg cornmeal, condensed milk, wheat flour, rolled oats, brown rice, bulgur, milk, meats
Potassium NE 4700 ND mg potatoes, bananas, tomato paste, tomatoes, orange juice, beet greens, quinoa, rolled oats, bulgur, beans, peas, cashews, pistachio nuts
Riboflavin (B2) 1.1 1.3 ND mg almonds, sesame seeds, spaghetti, beef liver, turkey
Selenium 45 55 400 µg Brazil nuts, rockfish, yellowfin tuna, beef, sardines, salmon, egg yolk, pearled barley, mackerel
Sodium NE 1500 2300 mg onion soup mix, miso, table salt, egg whites
Thiamin (B1) 1.0 1.2 ND mg fortified cereals, enriched wheat flour, breadcrumbs
Zinc 9.4 11 40 mg nuts, oysters, fortified cereals, beef, baked beans, oatmeal

EAR: Estimated Average Requirements; RDA: Recommended Dietary Allowances; AI: Adequate Intake; UL: Tolerable upper intake levels.

  1. ^ Vitamin C is added to frozen peaches to prevent darkening.[7] Raw peaches and peaches preserved in syrup do not have a high vitamin C content.[6]
  2. ^ The UL for magnesium represents extra intake from dietary supplements. High doses of magnesium from dietary supplements or medications often result in diarrhea that can be accompanied by nausea and abdominal cramping.[11] There is no evidence of adverse effects from the consumption of naturally occurring magnesium in foods.

It is also recommended that the following substances not be added to food or dietary supplements. Research has been conducted into adverse effects, but was not conclusive in many cases:

Substance RDA/AI UL units per day
Arsenic ND
Silicon ND
Vanadium 1.8 mg


RDA/AI is shown below for males and females aged 40–50 years.[4]

Substance Amount (males) Amount (females) Top Sources in Common Measures[6]
Water[i] 3.7 L/day 2.7 L/day water, watermelon, iceberg lettuce
Carbohydrates 130 g/day 130 g/day milk, grains, fruits, vegetables
Protein[ii] 56 g/day 46 g/day meats, fish, legumes (pulses and lentils), nuts, milk, cheeses, eggs
Fiber 38 g/day 25 g/day barley, bulgur, rolled oats, legumes, nuts, beans, apples,
Fat 20–35% of calories oils, butter, lard, nuts, seeds, fatty meat cuts, egg yolk, cheeses
Linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid (polyunsaturated) 17 g/day 12 g/day sunflower seeds, sunflower oil, safflower oil,
alpha-Linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid (polyunsaturated) 1.6 g/day 1.1 g/day Linseed oil (Flax seed), salmon, sardines
Cholesterol 300 milligrams(mg)[13] chicken giblets, turkey giblets, beef liver, egg yolk
Trans fatty acids As low as possible
Saturated fatty acids As low as possible while consuming a nutritionally adequate diet [14] coconut meat, coconut oil, lard, cheeses, butter, chocolate, egg yolk
Added sugar No more than 25% of calories foods that taste sweet but are not found in nature, such as sweets, cookies, cakes, jams, energy drinks, soda drinks, many processed foods
  1. ^ Includes water from food, beverages, and drinking water.
  2. ^ Based on 0.8 g/kg of body weight.

Calculating the RDA[edit]

The equations used to calculate the RDA are as follows:

"If the standard deviation (SD) of the EAR is available and the requirement for the nutrient is symmetrically distributed, the RDA is set at two SDs above the EAR:


If data about variability in requirements are insufficient to calculate an SD, a coefficient of variation (CV) for the EAR of 10 percent is assumed, unless available data indicate a greater variation in requirements. If 10 percent is assumed to be the CV, then twice that amount when added to the EAR is defined as equal to the RDA. The resulting equation for the RDA is then

RDA = 1.2EAR

This level of intake statistically represents 97.5 percent of the requirements of the population."[15]

Standard of evidence[edit]

In September 2007, the Institute of Medicine held a workshop entitled “The Development of DRIs 1994–2004: Lessons Learned and New Challenges.”[16] At that meeting, several speakers stated that the current Dietary Recommended Intakes (DRI’s) were largely based upon the very lowest rank in the quality of evidence pyramid, that is, opinion, rather than the highest level – randomized controlled clinical trials. Speakers called for a higher standard of evidence to be utilized when making dietary recommendations.


Nutrient Percent of U.S. population ages 2+ meeting EAR in 2004[17]
Protein 88.9%
Vitamin A 46.0%
Vitamin C 51.0%
Vitamin E 13.6%
Thiamin 81.6%
Riboflavin 89.1%
Niacin 87.2%
Vitamin B6 73.9%
Folate 59.7%
Vitamin B12 79.7%
Phosphorus 87.2%
Magnesium 43.0%
Iron 89.5%
Selenium 91.5%
Zinc 70.8%
Copper 84.2%
Calcium 30.9%
Fiber 8.0%
Potassium 7.6%
 % calories from total fat <= 35% 59.4%
 % calories from saturated fat < 10% 40.8%
Cholesterol intake < 300 mg 68.4%
Sodium intake <= 2,300 mg 29.9%

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "A Consumer's Guide to the DRIs (Dietary Reference Intakes)". Health Canada. 2010-11-29. Retrieved 2012-08-17. 
  2. ^ a b Dietary Reference Intakes: Applications in Dietary Planning. National Academy Press. 2003. p. 51. ISBN 978-0-309-08853-4. 
  3. ^ Harper AE (November 2003). "Contributions of women scientists in the U.S. to the development of Recommended Dietary Allowances". J. Nutr. 133 (11): 3698–702. PMID 14608098. 
  4. ^ a b Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs): Recommended Intakes for Individuals (PDF), Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine, National Academies, 2004, retrieved 2009-06-09 
  5. ^ Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs): Tolerable Upper Intake Levels, Vitamins., Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine, National Academies, 1997
  6. ^ a b c USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, SR23, 2010
  7. ^ P. Kendall (2013). "Freezing Fruits". Colorado State University Extension. Fact Sheet No. 9.331. Retrieved 2014-10-02. 
  8. ^ a b Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D. Washington DC: National Academy Press. 2011. ISBN 0-309-16394-3. Lay summaryInstitute of Medicine. ..., The IOM finds that the evidence supports a role for vitamin D and calcium in bone health but not in other health conditions. Further, emerging evidence indicates that too much of these nutrients may be harmful, challenging the concept that “more is better“. 
  9. ^ "Biotin". Micronutrient Information Center, Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University. 
  10. ^ "Chromium". Micronutrient Information Center, Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ "Molybdenum". Micronutrient Information Center, Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University. 
  13. ^ "14. Appendix F: Calculate the Percent Daily Value for the Appropriate Nutrients". Guidance for Industry: A Food Labeling Guide. Office of Nutrition, Labeling, and Dietary Supplements, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. October 2009. 
  14. ^ ""
  15. ^ Panel on Micronutrients 2001
  16. ^ The Development of DRIs 1994–2004: Lessons Learned and New Challenges. Workshop Summary, November 30, 2007
  17. ^ "California". Community Nutrition Mapping Project. USDA Agricultural Research Service. "All U.S." column. Retrieved 6 Nov 2014. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]