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EFSA sets average requirements for energy intake

EFSA has set average requirements (ARs) for energy intake for adults, infants and children, and pregnant and breastfeeding women. The ARs provide a best estimate of the energy needs of population groups within Europe and will help policymakers to develop and monitor nutrition programmes to promote public health including the establishment of food-based dietary guidelines.

EFSA’s scientific advice on energy requirements is laid down  in the latest of a series of scientific opinions on dietary reference values (DRVs)[1] produced by the Authority’s Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA Panel), on request from the European Commission. 

The average energy requirements of the specified age and sex groups were calculated to take account of different levels of physical activity, and are based on an assumed healthy body mass index[2] of 22kg/m2. For example, the Panel has set the following ARs, based on a moderately active lifestyle[3]:



ARs (kcal/day)















For pregnant women, an increase in body mass of 12kg was considered to be associated with optimal maternal and fetal health outcomes. The additional amounts of energy required to support pregnancy were estimated at 70 kcal/day, 260 kcal/day and 500 kcal/day during the first, second and third trimesters, respectively. The additional average energy requirement for women who exclusively breastfeed during the first six months after birth was estimated at 500 kcal/day.

The ARs take account of physical activity levels (PALs) that correspond to different lifestyles (sedentary, moderately active, very active, and highly active). These PALs are defined by factors such as: type of work (for example, office-based or physical labour), the amount of daily exercise taken, and daily household tasks undertaken, including shopping and cooking[4]. The ARs should be adjusted according to different contexts, such as for people or population groups with BMIs above or below 22kg/m2.

Notes to editors

Energy requirement is the amount of energy from food needed to maintain body mass, growth and development and support a level of physical activity consistent with long-term good health. Energy is provided in the diet by carbohydrates, fats, protein and alcohol, and the individual contribution of these sources is variable. Thus, dietary reference values for energy are not specified as defined amounts of a single nutrient but are expressed in units of energy.

This latest Scientific Opinion follows those establishing DRVs for carbohydrates, dietary fibre, fats, water, and protein. The NDA Panel has also published opinions laying down the general principles for establishing DRVs, and providing advice to policymakers on how to translate nutritional recommendations into food-based dietary guidelines. All were adopted by the Panel after consultation with Member States, the scientific community and other stakeholders. The consultations ensure that EFSA benefits from the widest range of information, data and views to finalise the work and provide the most up-to-date, comprehensive advice to EU decision-makers.

[1] Dietary reference values (DRVs) are the complete set of reference values for nutrient intake, including the average requirement, population reference intake, adequate intake and the lower threshold intake.

[2] Body mass index (BMI) is a method for estimating human body fat based on an individual’s weight and height. 22kg/m2; is the midpoint of the range of healthy BMIs for adults as defined by the World Health Organization.

[3] This corresponds to a physical activity level (PAL) of 1.60. An habitual PAL of 1.70 or higher is associated with a lower risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and several types of cancer, osteoporosis, and sarcopenia (FAO/WHO/UNU, 2004).

[4] The PALs are only rough indications of sustainable lifestyles, and the Panel noted in its deliberations that many European citizens have lifestyles that involve little physical activity.

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