Why Dietary Reference Intakes Will Become Obsolete

Personal Nutrition

30 September 2018 • Brian

Why Dietary Reference Intakes Will Become Obsolete

Personal Nutrition

30 September 2018 • Brian

Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) for vitamins and minerals are the primary method for determining how much you need to consume on a daily basis.

They change with respect to age and gender, and they’re designed to meet the needs of nearly all of the population. They have been put to work since 1941, and they’ve been modified over time in an attempt to constantly improve their accuracy.

There’s one glaring problem, however, with dietary reference intakes. They provide a single value designed to meet the needs of most of the population, for any given age and gender.

But the way each of us responds to different diets, both physically and mentally, is unique.

“We have different lives, different tastes, different needs, and even different biochemistry”

Take vitamin D intake in America as an example. The image below from our micronutrient intake interactive tool represents the percentage of the population, by age, meeting the DRI for vitamin D.

Vitamin D status by age. Vitamin D status by age.

Not so great, right? Most studies agree that Americans are not getting enough vitamin D. But you’ll likely notice something odd around the age of 50. This isn’t due to a sudden drop in vitamin D consumption among the entire population. And while the body needs more vitamin D as one ages, this shift doesn’t happen over one fateful birthday.

We age at different rates and our biochemistry is unique. Not only do imprecise age brackets cause oddities like the 50-year-old drop in vitamin D consumption, but they fail to accommodate this innate uniqueness.

So an amalgam of incomplete science, statistics, and a genuine inability to test everyone all of the time, has left us with broad-based suggestions that cover large age-spans that are meant to be used by everyone.

This concept goes beyond just vitamins and minerals. Your _macro_nutrient intake composition will vary from person-to-person as well.

This explains why diets of varying macronutrient composition have all shown to be effective and ineffective for weight loss. Certain diets work well for some people, but not everyone. And even when they work for a group of people, they will work to varying degrees.

A 2015 paper in Cell showed that identical meals can produce a very different glycemic response01481-6) across the population - in large part dictated by a varying gut microbiome composition.

Studies such as these continue to show that our variable biology and lifestyles mean broad recommendations, with everything from carbohydrate to calcium intake, will usually come up short or be individually less effective.

“Certain diets work better for some, but not others. PersonalizedNutrition will be more effective.”

As technology continues to enable personalized health monitoring and big data analytics, the concept of nutritional DRIs should, and will, change. Dietary reference intakes will cease to be broad-population, statistics-based recommendations.

They will become personal. Genetic testing, gut microbiota profiling, and diet and activity tracking will enable everyone to determine their needs and track their ongoing nutritional health to produce their own, personal dietary reference intake for that particular moment in time.

Training for a marathon? Maybe you need more zinc and magnesium than the average afternoon jogger. Vegetarian? Your diet will shift gut flora composition and may change your dietary needs.

Dietary risks are the greatest disease risk in America. Identifying and tracking these needs on the individual level is needed.

Fortunately, the ability to collect and track nutrition data is becoming easier and quickly approaching. That will mean more personalized nutrition and better health for all.

What do you think? Are we approaching a post-DRI world?

Intake’s mission is to improve global health through data-driven nutrition. Our blog provides information, education, tools, and tips about all things related to nutrition, including healthy eating, disease prevention, peak performance, and personalization. Sign up for alerts on new posts and product updates!

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