The Development of the Dietary Reference Intakes

Origin of the DRIs

History of Nutrition standards in North America

1939 First dietary standards in Canada issued by the Canadian Council on Nutrition.

1941 First edition of the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) published in the United States.

1942 Canadian Council on Nutrition adopts the RDAs for the sake of uniformity.

1945 Because of misuse of the RDAs in evaluating group intakes, the Canadian Council on Nutrition advises discontinuing their use in Canada. A new Canadian standard is released.

1948-1990 Standards periodically updated and released based on cumulative scientific data. The 1983 version was the first to be called the "Recommended Nutrient Intakes".

1989 10th edition of the RDAs published by the U.S. National Research Council.

1990 Health Canada (formerly Health and Welfare Canada) publishes revised Recommended Nutrient Intakes (RNIs).

The DRI process begins

1993 The Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) of the Institute of Medicine (IOM), National Academy of Sciences, holds symposium and public hearing entitled "Should the Recommended Dietary Allowances Be Revised?". Based on comments and suggestions from this meeting, FNB proposes changes to the process of developing the RDAs.

1994 FNB publishes the concept paper "How Should the Recommended Dietary Allowances Be Revised?" (IOM, 1994) and holds workshops at which experts discuss development of nutrient-based reference values.

April 1995 Multisectoral Canadian symposium reviews pros and cons of harmonizing Canada's dietary standards with those of US and reaches consensus in support of harmonization.
As a result, Health Canada approaches FNB to collaborate on development of harmonized nutrient-based recommendations.

Dec. 1995 FNB begins close collaboration with Health Canada.
Standing Committee on the Scientific Evaluation of Dietary Reference Intakes appointed to oversee and conduct the project.
Standing Committee devises project structure that involves expert nutrient group panels and two overarching subcommittees. Standing Committee announces that seven expert nutrient group panels would review major nutrients, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, electrolytes, and other food components.

1996 Subcommittee on Upper Reference Levels of Nutrients established.
First nutrient panel, on calcium and related nutrients, established.

DRI reports published

1997 IOM issues first nutrient report, on calcium and related nutrients.

1998 Subcommittee on Interpretation and Uses of Dietary Reference Intakes established.

1998-2004 Reports released on other nutrient groups (B vitamins; antioxidants; micronutrients; energy and macronutrients; electrolytes and water); applications in assessment; applications in planning; risk assessment model for developing ULs; definition and plan for review of antioxidants; definition of dietary fibre; and guiding principles for nutrition labelling and fortification.

2006 Summary of the Dietary Reference Intakes series, "DRIs: The Essential Guide to Nutrient Requirements", is published.

A Look at Lessons Learned

2007 U.S. and Canadian governments support a public workshop entitled "The Development of DRIs 1994-2004: Lessons Learned and New Challenges".

The Dietary Reference Intakes published between 1997 and 2004 represented a new approach to the development of nutrient reference standards in Canada and the United States. This approach has considerably advanced the development, understanding, and use of nutrient reference values in their various applications.

Nevertheless, various challenges were recognized by the DRI expert panels and others during the DRI development process. These challenges involved both the development of the DRIs as well as the application of the values.

This workshop was designed to identify issues important for enhancing the process of DRI development into the future. No recommendations were made.

Review of DRIs for Vitamin D and Calcium

2009 Based on the availability of new and relevant scientific research, U.S. and Canadian governments commission the Institute of Medicine to put together an expert panel to assess current relevant data and update, as appropriate, the Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D. This review was expected to take 2 years and was released by the IOM in prepublication format on November 30, 2010.

DRI Project Structure

The following committee structure was through until 2005 in place at the US Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) of the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences. Canadian nutrition scientists participated at each of these levels.

  • Standing Committee on the Scientific Evaluation of Dietary Reference Intakes
  • Expert Nutrient Review Panels
  • Subcommittees

The structure was expected to be used for subsequent reports. However, for the most recent report on calcium and vitamin D only the Expert Nutrient Review Panel was used. Because there were only two nutrients to review, the expertise normally contributed by the Subcommittees could be incorporated into the Expert Nutrient Review Panel.

Standing Committee on the Scientific Evaluation of Dietary Reference Intakes - Used from 1995-2005

The Standing Committee oversees the entire process. It coordinates recommendations from the specific nutrient panels and the two subcommittees and is responsible for overall review of the recommendations and their rationale before the final reports are developed. It also submits the final reports to the National Research Council Report Review Committee as they become available.

Expert Nutrient Review Panels

The nutrient group panels, composed of Canadian and U.S. experts on one or more of the nutrients, are responsible for:

  • reviewing the scientific literature concerning specific nutrients under study for each life-stage;
  • considering the roles of nutrients in decreasing the risk of chronic diseases and health conditions;
  • evaluating possible criteria or indicators of adequacy and providing a rationale for the choice of each criterion;
  • estimating the average requirement for each nutrient or food component reviewed for each life-stage; and
  • interpreting the current data on nutrient intakes of North American population groups.

The final stage of developing a DRI report involves external review by American and Canadian scientists before the reports are released.

The members of the Expert Nutrient Review Panel on Calcium and Vitamin D can be viewed on the Institute of Medicine website .

Subcommittees - Used from 1995-2005

The Subcommittee on Upper Reference Levels of Nutrients is composed of experts in toxicology and nutrition. It utilizes a risk assessment model for estimating tolerable upper levels of nutrients at which little or no risk of toxicity or adverse effects would exist. The model includes two parallel efforts, hazard identification (including doseBresponse assessment) and exposure assessment, the results of which are synthesized to characterize risks presented by contemporary intake levels and evaluate intake trends. The Subcommittee on Upper Reference Levels of Nutrients also assists the nutrient group panels in applying the model to each nutrient or food component reviewed.

The Subcommittee on Interpretation and Uses of Dietary Reference Intakes is composed of experts in nutrition, dietetics, statistics, nutritional epidemiology, public health, economics and consumer perspectives. It provides guidance for the appropriate use of each of the DRI values in:

  • assessing nutrient intakes of individuals and of groups
  • planning diets for individuals and for groups
  • other nutrient-specific applications

The Subcommittee on Interpretation and Uses of Dietary Reference Intakes identifies inappropriate applications, appropriate assumptions regarding intake and requirement distributions and adjustments needed to minimize potential errors in dietary intake data. It also assists the nutrient group panels in applying the DRIs with each nutrient or food component reviewed.

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