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Tolerable Upper Intake Levels

The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) is the highest level of daily nutrient intake that is likely to pose no risk of adverse health effects for almost all individuals in the general population (see Table S-10). As intake increases above the UL, the potential risk of adverse effects may increase. The term “tolerable intake” was chosen to avoid implying a possible beneficial effect. Instead, the term is intended to connote a level of intake that can, with high probability, be tolerated biologically. The UL is not intended to be a recommended level of intake. There is no established benefit for apparently healthy individuals if they consume nutrient intakes above the RDA or AI.

ULs are useful because of the increased interest in and availability of fortified foods and the increased use of dietary supplements. ULs are based on total intake of a nutrient from food, water, and supplements if adverse effects have been associated with total intake. However, if adverse effects have been associated with intake from supplements or food fortificants only, the UL is based on nutrient intake from one or both of those sources only, rather than on total intake. The UL applies to chronic daily use.

For vitamin K, arsenic, chromium, and silicon, there are insufficient data for developing a UL. This does not mean that there is no potential for adverse effects resulting from high intake; for example, arsenic is a human poison at high intakes. However, at levels below what is known to be toxic, little data are available. Where data about adverse effects are extremely limited, extra caution may be warranted.


The scientific data used to develop Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) have come from observational and experimental studies. Studies published in peer-reviewed journals were the principal source of data. Life stage and gender were considered to the extent possible, but the data did not provide a basis for proposing different requirements for men and for nonpregnant and nonlactating women in different age groups for many of the micronutrients. Two of the categories of reference values—the Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) and Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)—are defined by specific criteria of nutrient adequacy; the third, the Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL), is defined by a specific endpoint of adverse effect, when one is available. In all cases, data were examined closely to determine whether a functional endpoint could

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