Dietary Reference Standards

The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) has been developing reference standards for vitamins and other nutrients called Dietary

Reference Intakes (DRIs). In the past, the recommended dietary allowances (RDAs), which are the levels of intake of essential nutrients that are considered to be adequate to meet the known nutritional needs of practically all healthy persons, were the primary reference value for vitamins and other nutrients. The DRIs also include other reference values, such as the estimated average requirement (EAR) and the adequate intake (AI). The RDA, EAR, and AI reference standards define nutritional intake adequacy. Since these recommendations are given for healthy populations in general and not for individuals, special problems, such as premature birth, inherited metabolic disorders, infections, chronic disease, and use of medications, are not covered by the requirements. Separate RDAs have been developed for pregnant and lactating women. Vitamin supplementation may be required by patients with special conditions and for those who do not consume an appropriate diet.

A varied diet containing a wide range of foodstuffs provides adequate intake of vitamins for most people, and supplementing these amounts will have no beneficial effect and may result in the toxicity associated with hypervitaminosis. The DRI also includes the tolerable upper intake level (UL) of vitamins. The UL is defined as the highest level of intake of a nutrient that will not pose a risk of adverse health effects to most individuals in the general population. The UL is an important reference standard, especially with the current promotion and wide availability of vitamin preparations. A table of the DRIs for vitamins is available on the IOM's web site at nsf/Pages/Ongoing+Studies#FNB.

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