What are Dietary Reference Values and why do we need them?
Dietary Reference Values (DRVs) are the complete set of nutrient recommendations and reference values for the general population to meet their macronutrient and micronutrient needs.
In 1978, the Committee of Medical Aspects of Food Policy (COMA) assembled to review the Recommended Daily Amounts of food energy and nutrients for the public. The recommendations they set at the time carried the potential for misuse and misinterpretation as they were set deliberately high to minimise the risk of under nutrition. COMA reviewed the recommendations in 1991, creating a series of estimation requirements for different groups of healthy individuals living in the UK.
Estimated Average Requirements
These requirements were set as Estimated Average Requirements (EARs), Reference Nutrient Intakes (RNIs), Lower Reference Nutrient Intakes (LRINIs) and Safe Intake. EARs are an estimate of the average requirement needed by a group within the general population; approximately 50% will require more energy and 50% will require less energy. RNIs cover 97.5% of nearly all groups ensuring nutrient intake is being meet. LRNIs is the amount of nutrients that a small group of people require, (2.5%) meaning most groups will need more. Safe Intake is when the evidence is insufficient to set an EAR, RNI or LRNI. The Safe Intake judges that the amount will be enough for almost everyone but below a level that could cause undesirable effects. The evidence for these recommendations came from a range of sources but there is an emphasis placed on the COMA reports.
COMA has now been replaced by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) who most recently reviewed the requirements for sugar and vitamin D.
Where do they get this data, you ask?
The DRVs are monitored by a continuous, cross-sectional survey being run to obtain the nutritional intake of the population in the UK by The National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS). Quantitative detailed information on food consumption and nutrient intake is gathered, covering a representative sample of around 1,000 people a year.
Why do we need these values?
It is widely known today the role nutrition plays in continued health and the reduction to the risk of diet-related diseases. These requirements are important, as good nutrition can prevent diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and the risks associated with obesity. However, before I started my nutrition degree at university, I had never heard of these values.
The reports are fact heavy and honestly if I did not have a passion for nutrition, I would not brother to read them.
Yet they are important, and the general public needs to be aware of their nutrition intake requirements for continued health. The question is, how does the government, public health and nutritionists get this information across? I wish I had the answer, however I would urge people to read this short compact report.