Nutrience Reference Values, also known as NRV for short, and Dietary Reference Values, DRV, are nutrient intake guidelines used by government agencies and health organizations worldwide to define human requirements for essential nutrients.
The NRVs are defined as nutrient intake reference values in the EU and are calculated by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), while the DRVs are set by the World Health Organization (WHO) and other health authorities at global level. The values are repeatedly criticized due to various aspects, which we would like to go into in more detail in this article.
Find out why you might want to take these official guidelines with a grain of salt.
What do the abbreviations DRV and NRV stand for?
The abbreviations DRV and NRV both refer to reference values for nutrient intake, but differ in their meaning and usage.
DRV stands for "Dietary Reference Values". This is the recommended daily intake and the term refers to the recommendations issued by governments and health authorities for the daily intake of nutrients to ensure a balanced and healthy diet .The DRVs cover a wide range of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats and carbohydrates, and are specified for different age groups, genders and activity levels.
The term NRV, on the other hand, stands for "Nutrient Reference Values" and refers to the standards used by the food industry and trade for the nutrient composition of foods and dietary supplements. The NRV are based on the DRV, but are sometimes used as a marketing tool to promote the health-promoting properties of certain foods and dietary supplements.
An important difference between the two concepts is their intended use. While DRVs are officially aimed at maintaining health and preventing disease, NRVs are intended to promote balanced and sufficient nutrient intake through certain foods and dietary supplements.
We would therefore like to go into this in more detail.
What are DRV and NRV used for?
The values are officially used to ensure optimal nutrient intake for the population and to develop nutritional guidelines that are tailored to people's health needs. The DRV and NRV indicate how much of each nutrient a person needs per day to stay healthy, have normal growth and ensure normal development. The values vary depending on age groups and genders.
The NRV and DRV are defined for different nutrients. It depends on the nutrients the food contains what the NRV and DRV are. For example, when it comes to calcium, dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese as well as green leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach are good sources of calcium with correspondingly high values. For iron, however, red meat, fish, poultry, beans and lentils as well as dark green leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach are recommended.
It's important to make sure you eat a balanced diet with a variety of foods to ensure you get all the nutrients you need. The NRV and DRV therefore only serve as guidelines to help ensure that you consume sufficient amounts of essential nutrients.
But in the end it's not that simple, because the NRV and DRV are not always calculated and determined 100% transparently and the science behind them should also be viewed with a little skepticism if you look at them in more detail.
What are these values based on?
The determination of NRV and DRV is based on scientific studies on nutrient absorption and utilization as well as on the assessment of the health effects of nutrient deficiencies and excesses.
There are always discussions about how the NRV and DRV are determined and who has influence on the decisions. The accusation is often made that politics and lobbying often have a greater influence on the determination of values than the science on which the values are actually supposed to be based. In particular, the interests of the food industry and other interest groups are the focus of criticism, because they have certain monetary interests in ensuring that their products and food can be sold well.
But what exactly are the points of criticism?
Some scientists argue, for example, that despite the factors taken into account for individualization (age, gender, weight, etc.), the general values are still too general and numerous individual needs and aspects are not taken into account. Nutrient needs, nutrient intake, and best possible food intake vary greatly from person to person. The general values therefore only scratch the surface. Such individual aspects include intolerances, illnesses, hereditary conditions, metabolic diseases, ethnic aspects and certain professional fields.
In addition, most NRVs and DRVs are based on epidemiological studies that examine correlations between nutrient intake and health. However, correlations cannot always indicate causality and other factors that were not taken into account in these studies may also play an important role.
Another point of criticism is that the NRV and DRV are often not sufficiently updated. New scientific findings on nutrient absorption and utilization as well as the health importance of nutrients may not be taken into account quickly enough.
Examples of the problem of values
We would therefore like to use a few concrete examples to illustrate why the DRV and NRV should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.
An example of the well-founded criticism regarding these values and an ongoing discussion can be found regarding the intake recommendation for sugar.
The DRV and NRV for sugar are controversial because there are different types of sugar and the body processes them differently. In particular, consumption of refined sugar and other simple carbohydrates is linked to a number of health problems such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
The current DRV and NRV recommend a daily intake of a maximum of 10% of the total energy intake from free sugar. Free sugar includes all sugars added to foods and drinks, as well as sugars naturally found in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit concentrates.
However, some experts argue that this recommendation is still far too high and that sugar consumption should be reduced even further to improve health. In particular, it is noted that some types of sugar, such as fructose, which are found in high quantities in soft drinks and other sugary drinks, can be particularly harmful to health if a person does not have an increased need for sugar, e.g. B. is an extreme athlete.
Some critics accuse the European Food Safety Authority of paying too much attention to the interests of the food industry when setting sugar values. Because it is well known that refined sugar can be addictive.
Another example of an NRV or DRV that can be viewed critically is the recommendation for vitamin D intake. The NRV and DRV recommend a daily intake of 10 to 20 µg of vitamin D for adults to ensure optimal bone health guarantee.
However, some research studies have shown that higher doses of vitamin D may be necessary for some people to maintain adequate levels of vitamin D in the blood. This particularly affects older people, people with darker skin and people who are exposed to little sunlight. If these people just stick to the general values, they may have difficulty getting enough vitamin D from sunlight and diet.
In addition, there is also debate as to whether the current NRV and DRV for vitamin D are sufficient to account for the non-bone-related effects of vitamin D, such as the role of vitamin D in immune function and anti-inflammation.
The example of vitamin D shows that the NRV and DRV should be viewed as general recommendations and that each individual's individual needs must be taken into account when determining optimal nutrient intake. How often does my skin come into contact with the sun? What skin type am I and at what latitude do I live? In general, when it comes to vitamin D, the NRV and DRV differ significantly from the scientific findings, with recommendations that are usually too low.
What does the solution approach look like?
In order to increase the relevance, transparency and credibility of these values, government authorities and health organizations should ensure, when setting the NRV and DRV, that they are based on a balanced consideration of scientific evidence and, in particular, independent expertise. In addition, conflicts of interest should be disclosed and minimized in order to reduce the influence of lobbying and political interests on decision-making. It is not uncommon for the studies that serve as the basis for “calculating” such values to be financed by major food companies or shareholders – a conflict of interest cannot be denied.
It is also important that the public and health professionals are informed about the NRV and DRV and understand how these values are set and how they should be used to promote healthy diets in the population. Comprehensive and accessible communication about these values and their meaning can help avoid confusion and misinformation and restore trust in these benchmarks.
And how does BETHECHANGE deal with these values?
Human biochemistry – BE THE CHANGE
We produce foods, vital substance preparations and sports nutrition that contribute sustainably to health and well-being and support and simplify daily nutrition. Of course, we focus on the nutrients and active ingredients that are most valuable to humans, including the scientifically based NRV and DRV, but we still show healthy skepticism because the lobbying that is currently taking place unfortunately still makes this necessary.
When designing and manufacturing, we focus particularly on human biochemistry and adapt all of our products to this. We always ensure that our products are highly bioavailable to enable optimal absorption of the active ingredients into the body.
We also ensure the quality of the products by giving equal weight to every step in production. We demonstrate our quality transparently using certificates.
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