Scientific Opinion on Dietary Reference Values for iron

iron, Average Requirement, Dietary Reference Value, probabilistic modelling, factorial approach
First published in the EFSA Journal
21 October 2015
23 September 2015
Scientific Opinion


Following a request from the European Commission, the Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies derived Dietary Reference Values (DRVs) for iron. These include Average Requirement (AR) and Population Reference Intake (PRI). For adults, whole-body iron losses were modelled using data from US adults. Predicted absorption values, at a serum ferritin concentration of 30 µg/L, of 16 % for men and 18 % for women were used to convert physiological requirements to dietary iron intakes. In men, median whole-body iron losses are 0.95 mg/day, and the AR is 6 mg/day. The PRI, calculated as the dietary requirement at the 97.5th percentile, is 11 mg/day. For postmenopausal women, the same DRVs as for men are proposed. In premenopausal women, additional iron is lost through menstruation but, because losses are highly skewed, the Panel set a PRI of 16 mg/day to cover requirements of 95 % of the population. In infants and children, requirements were calculated factorially, taking into consideration the needs for growth, replacement of losses and percentage iron absorption from the diet (10 % up to 11 years and 16 % thereafter). PRIs were estimated using a coefficient of variation of 20 %. They are 11 mg/day in infants (7–11 months), 7 mg/day in children aged 1–6 years and 11 mg/day in children aged 7–11 years and boys aged 12–17 years. For girls aged 12–17 years, the PRI of 13 mg/day is the midpoint of the calculated dietary requirement of 97.5 % of girls and the PRI for premenopausal women; this approach allows for the large uncertainties in the rate and timing of pubertal growth and menarche. For pregnant and lactating women, for whom it was assumed that iron stores and enhanced absorption provide sufficient additional iron, DRVs are the same as for premenopausal women.

Panel members at the time of adoption

Jean Louis Bresson, Barbara Burlingame, Tara Dean, Susan Fairweather-Tait, Marina Heinonen, Karen Ildico Hirsch-Ernst, Inge Mangelsdorf, Harry McArdle, Androniki Naska, Monika Neuhäuser-Berthold, Grażyna Nowicka, Kristina Pentieva, Yolanda Sanz, Alfonso Siani, Anders Sjödin, Martin Stern, Daniel Tomé, Dominique Turck, Hendrik Van Loveren, Marco Vinceti and Peter Willatts.
Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies
nda [at]
EFSA Journal 2015;13(10):4254
Question Number
On request from
European Commission