What do EAR, RDS, DVR, RNI, AL, SI, and UL mean?

17 January 2020

Many of us are familiar with the popular saying ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’, but is there some truth to this?  As this saying suggests, some foods have been found to provide health benefits and have disease-preventing properties.

Dietary reference intakes (DRIs) are a set of recommendations for the proper intake of nutrients to ensure your body is getting what it needs for good health.[1] These recommendations are often used by nutrition practitioners, governments, and non-government organizations to help us meet our nutritional needs and create a plan for good health. Dietary reference intakes (DRIs) include four sets of values including Estimated Average Requirements (EARs), Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), Adequate Intake (AI) and Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL).

Estimated Average Requirements (EARs) 

EARs are intake levels for nutrients estimated to meet the needs of half of the healthy individuals in a particular life stage and gender group. This means that the nutrient needs of half of the individuals in that particular group will be met, while the other half of individuals in the specified group would not have their nutrient needs met. The EAR is based on specific criteria and is used as the basis for calculating the RDAs for individuals.

Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)

An RDA is the average daily dietary intake level that is sufficient to meet the nutrient requirement of nearly all (97 per cent to 98 per cent) healthy individuals in a particular group.[1] The RDA is derived from the nutrient requirement, therefore, the RDA will be a higher value of the EAR and if an EAR cannot be set, no RDA will be set. For example, the vitamin D EAR for children 1 year and older is 400 IU, while the RDA for children of the same age group is 600 IU. RDAs are values to be used as a goal for dietary intake by healthy individuals.

Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI)

This term is used in the United Kingdom to reference the intake that will be adequate to meet the needs of 97.5 per cent of the population. This term is similar to RDA for North America.


Dietary Reference Value (DRV)

This is a term used in the United Kingdom to quantify nutrition and energy requirements for the population.  Health authorities take into account the 3 estimates, Estimated Average Requirement (EAR), Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI), and Lower Reference Nutrient Intake (LRNI) or the amount that only 2.5 per cent of the population would be adequate.


Adequate Intake (AI)

 AIs are values based on observed or experimentally determined approximations of nutrient intake by a group of healthy people.[1] AIs are used when there is not enough data to establish an EAR and set an RDA.  

Safe intake (SI)

Some countries use this term when health authorities believe that there is insufficient or inconclusive data to set an exact dietary reference value. The Safe Intake is a range or an amount that authorities considered the amount to be enough for there to be no risk of deficiency. This is also a point where there is minimal risk of undesirable effects.


Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL)

A UL is the highest level of daily nutrient intake that is likely to pose no risk of adverse health effects to almost all individuals in the general population.[1] As intake increases above the UL, the risk for adverse effects increases. ULs are not intended to be a recommended level of intake, rather a level of intake that most individuals can likely tolerate.

  1. [1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK45182/
Tags: baby, child, infant, kid, recommendations, toddler


Alyssa Davenport

Alyssa is a marketing writer with a passion for wellness. She loves keeping up with the latest research and helping others through health and nutrition education. When she’s not breaking down complicated topics, you can find her with her doggy sidekick, Bella, or reading the latest marketing trends.

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