Making Sense of the DRI
Updated: Jan 13, 2020
DRI = Dietary Reference Intakes
EAR = Estimated Average Requirement
RDA = Recommended Dietary Allowance
AI = Adequate Intake
UL = Tolerable Upper Level
What is the DRI?
The DRI, Dietary Reference Intakes, were meant as the expansion of the original RDA (of the U.S.) and the RNI (of Canada). The DRI incorporates the most recent nutrition science and determines reference values for not only for preventing nutritional deficiency but to also prevent disease via nutritional adequacy. Whereas, the RDA was derived to simply prevent nutrition deficiency. The main focus of the DRI is to prevent nutrient deficiency, prevent disease, optimize health, and avoid nutrient toxicity.
The four categories make up the DRI:
EAR - nutritional amount that is sufficient for 50% of healthy individuals
RDA - nutritional amount that is known to prevent nutrient deficiency in 97-98% of healthy population groups
AI - an approximation of nutritional adequacy and used when RDA cannot be verified.
UL - The highest amount of nutrient intake considered safe. Above the UL has increased risk for toxicity.
Is the DRI intended for everyone?
The DRI’s are not intended for everyone. They are standards created for healthy people. They are not created for the acute or chronically ill or the already nutrient deficient or in conditions with increased need of a nutrient.
How are RDA’s calculated?
RDA = EAR + 2SD
If there is no EAR then there is no RDA. This calculation assumes statistically normal distribution. (Remember statistics class?)
With the two added statistical deviations, the RDA is likely more than sufficient for most people.
Hope this helps clarify the DRI! Happy studying!
Institute of Medicine. (2006). Dietary reference intakes: The essential guide to nutrient requirements. Washington DC: National Academies Press.
The Dietary Reference Intake book is a good resource to keep on hand as a practicing dietitian.