The FDA requires that the Nutrition Facts label for all processed foods express its nutrient content as a percentage of a suggested daily intake. This dietary reference is known as the Daily Value (DV). For the most part, the DV is designed as a "1 size fits all" based on a 2,000 calorie diet in order to fit on the packaging. However the most accurate reference values are the DRI's (Dietary Reference Intakes) which take into account gender, age, and life stage. Knowing these values can help you further tailor your diet to suit your needs.
Here's a breakdown of the dietary reference timeline -
- 1968: the first comprehensive and widely recognized set of RDA values were established
- 1974: the first update to the RDA was released
- 1980: the second update to the RDA was released
- 1989: the third update to the RDA was released
- 1994: the FDA mandated the inclusion of DV on food labels
- 1997-2004: the DRIs were developed
The DRI calculator below can be used to determine your customized nutritional requirements. This tool is great for meal planning and evaluating supplements such as multi-vitamins. I recommend using it in conjunction with the nutritional analysis tools on the Nutrition Data website.
RDA = the 1989 Recommended Dietary Allowances, which may be used as goals for individual intake
AI = Adequate Intakes, which may be used as goals for individual intake
UL = The maximum level of daily nutrient intake that is likely to pose no risk of adverse effects
g = grams
mg = milligrams (1,000 mg = 1 g)
mcg = micrograms (1,000 mcg = 1 mg)
IU = International Unit; used for the measurement of fat-soluble vitamins; conversion to mg varies depending on the nutrient
* = value not established
DV (Daily Value): a newer dietary reference term that appears on the food label. It is made up of two sets of references, DRVs and RDIs.
DRV (Daily Reference Value): a set of dietary references that applies to fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, carbohydrate, protein, fiber, sodium, and potassium.
RDI (Reference Daily Intake): the value established by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in nutrition labeling. It was based initially on the highest 1968 Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for each nutrient, to assure that needs were met for all age groups.
RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance): established and periodically revised by the Food and Nutrition Board. Value shown is the highest RDA for each nutrient, in the year indicated for each revision.
U.S. RDAs (U.S. Recommended Daily Allowances): values developed by the FDA, but based on the RDAs set by the Food and Nutrition Board (replaced by RDIs to avoid confusion).
DRI (Dietary Reference Intakes): the most recent set of dietary recommendations established by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine, 1997-2004. They replace previous RDAs, and may be the basis for eventually updating the RDIs. The value shown here is the highest DRI for each nutrient. It includes adequate intake (AI) and upper intake levels (UL).
AI (Adequate Intake): a set of DRI values where no RDA has been established, but the amount established is somewhat less firmly believed to be adequate for everyone in the demographic group.
UL (Tolerable upper intake levels): a set of DRI values which caution against excessive intake of nutrients that can be harmful in large amounts.
Source: Dobnig H, Pilz S, Scharnagl H, et al. "Independent association of low serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D levels with all-cause and cardiovascular mortality." Archives of Internal Medicine, 2008;168:1340-1349.
Source: Pilz S, Dobnig H, Winklhofer-Roob B, et al. "Low serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D predict fatal cancer in patients referred to coronary angiography." Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, 2008;17:1228-1233.
Source: BMJ 2010;341:c3691
Source: Melamed ML, Michos ED, Post W. "25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and the risk of mortality in the general population." Archives of Internal Medicine, 2008;168:1629-1637.
Source: National Agricultural Library, Agricultural Research Service, U. S. Department of Agriculture
Source: USDA, 2004-2010