Dietary reference values and dietary guidelines
A balanced diet is one that provides adequate amounts of energy and nutrients for health and well-being. Dietary Reference Values (DRVs) are the complete set of nutrient recommendations and reference values, such as population reference intakes, the average requirement, adequate intake level and the lower threshold intake. DRVs can be used for instance as a basis for reference values in food labelling and for establishing food-based dietary guidelines (FBDG). FBDG translate nutritional recommendations into messages about foods and diet, and can guide consumers on what to eat and help them make healthy dietary choices.
The scientific advice on nutrient intakes is the basis for Community action in the field of nutrition. For example such advice has been used by policy makers for decisions on food labelling. At EU level, the 1993 opinion of the Scientific Committee on Food (SCF) on the nutrient and energy intakes for the European Community provided reference intakes for energy and certain nutrients. There is now a need for this advice to be reviewed and updated to ensure that the Community action in the area of nutrition is underpinned by the latest available knowledge.
Scientific advice in this field is also available from other sources. Scientific advisory bodies in Member States have provided advice on nutrient intakes. International organisations such as the World Health Organisation have published recommended intakes for certain nutrients and dietary components. Taken together these reports suggest a growing degree of consensus, but there are variations on some issues.
EFSA' s role and activities
EFSA provides the most up-to-date and comprehensive scientific advice to support EU policy makers in their decision making process in the field of nutrition. EFSA’s advice on nutrient intakes provides an important evidence base to underpin nutritional policies, the setting of diet-related public health targets and the development of consumer information and educational programmes on healthy diets.
In theoryEFSA identifies and reviews scientific studies, including reports of national and international authorities, for possible health effects of a specific nutrient.
In practiceHealth effects of dietary fibre are identified by reviewing scientific studies.
|EFSA evaluates evidence for relationships between the intake of a nutrient and defined health outcomes.||The evidence for the relationship between dietary fibre intake and bowel function or diet-related diseases is evaluated.|
|Where nutrient-health relationships are established, EFSA provides scientific advice which may be used by policy makers.||A daily intake of 25 g of dietary fibre is set as a Dietary Reference Value because it is adequate for normal bowel function in adults, while consumption above 25 g dietary fibre per day may reduce risk of coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes and may improve weight maintenance.|
How is this advice utilised?
Policy makers, such as Member States authorities, may use such scientific advice (also taking into account food and nutrient intakes and health status of their population) when making nutrient intake recommendations (e.g. setting a recommended daily intake of dietary fibre of 25 g for adults) or when establishing food based dietary guidelines (e.g. recommending regular consumption of fruits, vegetables and wholegrain cereals).
EFSA’s work on DRVs
EFSA has been asked by the European Commission to review and update the reference values for nutrient and energy intakes established in 1993 by the Scientific Committee on Food. In doing so EFSA is taking into account new scientific evidence and recent recommendations issued at national and at international level. In addition, the Commission has also asked EFSA to help public authorities in Member States in translating nutrient-based recommendation into practical food-based dietary guidelines.
In order to ensure a consistent approach throughout, EFSA’s Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) laid down general principles for establishing Dietary Reference Values in an opinion published in March 2010. In addition, the Panel also established DRVs for carbohydrates, dietary fibre, fats and water.
Moreover the Panel published a further opinion on food-based dietary guidelines providing advice to policy makers on how to translate nutritional recommendations into messages about foods.
- EFSA sets European dietary reference values for nutrient intakes
- Before being finalised the draft opinions were also discussed at a National Expert Meeting with Member States on DRVs held in Barcelona in September 2009. Meeting with national experts on Dietary Reference Values (DRVs)
All draft opinions on DRVs, including those published in March 2010, are subject to public consultation with Member States, the scientific community, and other stakeholders before their finalisation. This ensures that EFSA benefits from the widest range of views to finalise the work and provide the most up-to-date, clear and comprehensive advice to EU decision makers.
Besides, EFSA has also provided scientific advice on the setting of tolerable upper levels of intakes (UL) for vitamins and minerals. These DRVs represent the highest level of daily intake of a nutrient that is likely to pose no risk of adverse health effects. The UL set by EFSA will support the European Commission and Member States in the establishment of maximum levels of nutrients authorised in fortified foods and food supplements.
Overview of public consultations related to DRVs:
|Opinions||Status of the public consultation|
|General principles for setting DRVs||Closed. Opinion published in March 2010.|
|DRVs for water||Closed. Opinion published in March 2010.|
|Guidance for food-based dietary guidelines||Closed. Opinion published in March 2010.|
|DRVs for carbohydrates and dietary fibre||Closed. Opinion published in March 2010.|
|DRVs for fats||Closed. Opinion published in March 2010.|
|DRVs for protein||Closed. Opinion published in February 2012.|
|DRVs for energy||Closed. Opinion published in January 2013.|
|DRVs for micronutrients||To be determined|