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American Dietetic Association Offers Guide to Help Dietetics Professionals Use Dietary Reference Intakes to Help People Plan Nutritious Diets


Media Contacts: Ryan O'Malley, Allison MacMunn
800/877-1600, ext. 4769, 4802

CHICAGO - Registered dietitians and other food and nutrition practitioners can use the Dietary Reference Intakes, a set of nutrient reference standards, to better assess the nutrient intakes of individuals and groups and plan nutritionally adequate diets.

As a guide for its members, the American Dietetic Association has published a new practice paper, “Using the Dietary Reference Intakes,” in the May issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

The Dietary Reference Intakes, or DRIs, are a set of nutrient reference standards developed for the United States and Canada by the Institute of Medicine. They provide tools for dietary assessment and planning for individuals and groups alike. Registered dietitians can use these new approaches to enhance their roles as the experts in nutrition care.

The DRIs include the Estimated Average Requirement (EAR), the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), the Adequate Intake (AI), the Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL), the Estimated Energy Requirement (EER) and the Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR). The DRIs are intended for use with generally healthy people and unless otherwise specified they apply to all sources of a nutrient, including supplements. They apply to a person or group’s usual intake over time rather than on any given day.

“Because a distribution of requirements is provided for most nutrients, it is possible to estimate a probability of nutrient inadequacy for an individual’s usual intake, and the prevalence of nutrient inadequacy among the intakes of a group of people,” according to the authors of ADA’s practice paper, Suzanne P. Murphy, PhD, RD, professor at the Cancer Center of the University of Hawaii; and Susan I. Barr, PhD, RD, FDC, professor of food, nutrition and health at the University of British Columbia.

“In the past the only nutrient reference standard available for use by food and nutrition practitioners was the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA),” the authors write. In 1997, the Institute of Medicine began to release the Dietary Reference Intakes.

“The DRIs were developed using a paradigm that considers the distribution of nutrient requirements as well as the possibility of excess,” the authors write. For example, using the Tolerable Upper Intake Levels can identify nutrient intakes such as vitamins and supplements that are at risk of being excessive. “However, some of these new applications are complex, and their implementation would be facilitated by better training aids and improved computer software.”

According to ADA’s practice paper, these new tools “would help registered dietitians become more familiar with the appropriate applications of the Dietary Reference Intakes in the Nutrition Care Process, and better recognize both the benefits and challenges associated with their use.”

Practice papers are evaluative summaries of scientific information and practical application that address topics of importance to ADA members. While they provide opportunities for improvement in dietetics practice and include peer-reviewed perspectives from experts in the field, they should not be interpreted as official positions of ADA.