Nutrition: dietary reference values

Uploaded by EFSAchannel on 07.01.2013

Hello, my name is Anja and I am a scientist working at
EFSA in the area of nutrition.
Today I am going to talk to you about what we do
at EFSA with respect to Dietary Reference Values.
“An apple a day keeps the doctor away”.
As this well-known saying suggests, we have long known that
some foods have health benefits and help to prevent diseases.
Awareness of the importance of good nutrition has risen in recent years.
There is now consensus among scientists
that poor diets and low levels of physical activity
can lead to a number of chronic conditions,
such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes,
cancer and even cognitive diseases like dementia.
Humans need many different nutrients if they are to stay
healthy and reduce the risk of diet-related disease.
A nutrient is a component of food such as protein,
carbohydrate, fat, vitamins, minerals, and water.
Each nutrient has particular functions in the body.
Energy-providing macronutrients such as carbohydrate, fat and protein,
are needed in relatively large quantities.
We need micronutrients, such as minerals and vitamins,
in relatively small quantities.
The amount of each nutrient needed to maintain health
is called the nutrient requirement.
It is related to a person’s age, gender, level of physical activity,
genetic background, dietary pattern
and physiological status such as pregnancy.
For example, women of childbearing age need more iron than men.
Also, some people absorb or utilise nutrients less
efficiently and so have higher nutrient requirements.
For example, vegetarians take up iron less well from the diet
than people who eat meat and thus vegetarians need more iron in their diet.
All this information is taken into account when setting Dietary Reference Values.
Dietary Reference Values are nutrient intake values
derived to protect people’s health.
They state the amounts of macro – and micronutrients that should be ingested
by healthy people, from infants up to the elderly.
EFSA’s nutrition experts have set Dietary Reference Values
for the intake of carbohydrate, dietary fibre, fat,
protein, energy, and water by European citizens.
For example, they concluded that a daily intake of 25 grams
of dietary fibre is adequate for normal bowel function in adults.
They also considered that the intake of certain fatty acids
– namely saturated fatty acids and trans fatty acids
– should be as low as possible to limit the risk of cardiovascular disease.
So how do EFSA’s nutrition experts tackle this task?
Based on published scientific literature, they assess the relationship between
intake of a nutrient,
the nutrient status of the body,
and the relation to human health.
Their aim is to identify a suitable indicator for the nutrient requirement.
This can be a nutrient intake linked to prevention
of a deficiency disease, a function of the body,
or protection from a non-communicable disease such as cardiovascular disease.
So who is going to use these Dietary Reference Values and for what purpose?
Dietary Reference Values can be used by policy-makers,
such as the European Commission or EU Member States,
to ensure that the information on food labelling
is accurate and meaningful to consumers.
Dietary Reference Values can also be used to help identify
diet-related problems, and for planning of diets.
Last but not least, they serve as the basis for the drafting of
dietary guidelines - such as in the form of a food pyramide -
that can help to keep European citizens fit and healthy.