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Nutrition Today:
Nutrient Standards

DRI, EAR, RDA, AI, UL: Making Sense of This Alphabet Soup

Devaney, Barbara L. PhD; Barr, Susan I. PhD, RDN

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Abstract

The new Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) are a set of four nutrient-based reference values that replace the former Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) in the United States and Recommended Nutrient Intakes (RNIs) in Canada. The DRIs differ from the former RDAs and RNIs in that, in addition to preventing nutritional deficiency, the new reference values also aim to improve the long-term health and well-being of a population by reducing the risk of chronic disease through nutrition.

Nutrients are now assigned either an Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) and Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) or an Adequate Intake (AI) value for each life stage category. Most nutrients also have a Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) to prevent the risk of adverse effects from excessive nutrient intakes.

The new RDAs and AIs will serve as intake goals for the families that you see each day in your practice. The ULs should be used to urge caution in the consumption of nutrient supplements that could lead to excessive nutrient intakes. The EARs will be used by nutrition researchers to assess the nutrient adequacy of groups (identifying specific nutrients that may be lacking), and will provide the basis for nutrition education programs and materials that will help address nutrient deficiencies.

© 2002 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.

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