The current DVs for protein, total carbohydrate, total fat, and saturated fat are based on a 2,000-calorie reference level (FDA, 1993c). The new Canadian labeling regulations also use this reference level (Canada, 2003). When the U.S. nutrition label was revised in the early 1990s, a 2,350-calorie reference level was proposed (FDA, 1993c). However the 2,000-calorie reference level was selected because it was thought that a rounded value would be easier for consumers to use and that 2,000 calories was less likely to suggest an inappropriate level of precision. In addition, the use of a lower calorie value was consistent with the public health goals of NLEA (FDA, 1993c). In the United States an estimated 64 percent of adults and 15 percent of children and adolescents are obese or overweight (Flegal et al., 2002; Ogden et al., 2002); in Canada it is estimated that 57 percent of men, 35 percent of women, 33 percent of boys, and 27 percent of girls are obese or overweight (Tremblay et al., 2002). Presenting a DV that might further encourage the overconsumption of calories would not benefit the public health of North Americans.

The committee considered whether there was a basis in the recently established Estimated Energy Requirements (EERs)3 for developing a calorie reference level for macronutrients in nutrition labeling. The committee recognized that using the EER to derive a calorie reference level would require making assumptions about height, weight, and physical activity level. However, the prediction equations used to calculate the EERs were based on normal-weight individuals, but both the American and the Canadian populations have a high prevalence of overweight and obesity. Thus the committee found that the North American data necessary to use the EER concept as the basis for a calorie reference level for nutrition labeling are incomplete and it cannot recommend this approach.

The committee concluded that retaining the current 2,000-calorie reference level would be the best approach as it would provide continuity and would not encourage higher calorie intake and overconsumption of energy. A 2,000-calorie reference level should not be presented in such a manner that consumers construe it to be a mandatory daily intake level for good health. The committee also


The EER is defined in the macronutrient report as “… the dietary energy intake that is predicted to maintain energy balance in a healthy adult of a defined age, gender, weight, height, and level of physical activity consistent with good health. In children and pregnant or lactating women, the EER includes the needs associated with deposition of tissues or the secretion of milk at rates consistent with good health” (IOM, 2002a, p. S-3).

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