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safety and efficacy exist, reduction in the risk of chronic degenerative disease—rather than just the absence of signs of deficiency—is included in the formulation of the recommendation; (2) where data are adequate, upper levels of intake are established to prevent risk of adverse effects; and (3) components of food that may not fit the traditional concept of an essential nutrient but are of possible benefit to health will be reviewed and if sufficient data exist, reference intakes will be established.

Where adequate information is available, each nutrient will have a set of DRIs. A nutrient will have either an Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) and RDA, or an Adequate Intake (AI). When an EAR for the nutrient cannot be determined (and therefore, neither can the RDA), then an AI is provided for the nutrient. In addition, most nutrients will have a Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL). Like the former RDAs and RNIs, each type of DRI refers to the average daily nutrient intake of apparently healthy individuals over time, although the amount may vary substantially from day to day without ill effect in most cases.

In developing recommended intakes, emphasis is placed on the reasons underlying the particular criterion of adequacy used to establish the requirement for each nutrient. A table of the recommended daily intakes developed using the DRI process, at the time this report was printed, can be found at the end of this book.


The EAR1 is the median usual intake value that is estimated to meet the requirement of half the healthy individuals in a life stage and gender group. At this level of intake, the other half of the individuals in the specified group would not have their needs met. The EAR is based on a specific criterion of adequacy, derived from a careful review of the literature. Reduction of disease risk is considered along with many other health parameters in the selection of that criterion. The EAR is used to calculate the RDA.


It is recognized that the definition of the EAR implies a median as opposed to a mean or average. The median and average would be the same if the distribution of requirements followed a symmetrical distribution such as the normal, and would diverge as a distribution became skewed. Two considerations prompted the choice of the term EAR: (1) data are rarely adequate to determine the distribution of requirements, and (2) precedent has been set by other countries that have used the term EAR for reference values similarly derived (COMA, 1991).

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