The recent announcement by the Canadian and U.S. governments that the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA and the fat-soluble vitamin E have been selected to undergo Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) review bodes well for the future of the nutritional products market. Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E and 2 other nutrients were selected from 26 nominations (16 nutrients) as being worthy of the in-depth review process that is undertaken for the establishment or revision of a DRI.
“We are very gratified to see this recognition of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E by such authoritative nutrition leaders as the DRI committees in North America,” said William Turney, Head of Regulatory Affairs for DSM Nutritional Products North America, the world’s leading supplier of nutrients to the dietary supplement, food and beverage industries. “DSM has a deep commitment to the nutrition industry and strong confidence in its future.”
Because the DRI review process is lengthy and expensive, the DRI Committees must prioritize new DRI reviews. The criteria are evidence of significant, new, and relevant data published since the last DRI review, and relevance to current public health concerns.
In the case of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, there is currently no DRI and establishment of a reference value would be useful because it would provide a parameter to assess the public’s status of these nutrients. A growing body of scientific evidence continues to show that long-chain omega-3 fatty acids may provide significant health benefits throughout life, including roles in infant development, cognition, eyesight and cardiovascular health. “How much is needed?” is the proverbial 64-thousand-dollar question.
“Establishment of a DRI for Omega-3’s will be a huge step forward for consumers, health care providers and manufacturers,” explained Will Black, Vice President of Marketing for DSM Nutritional Products, North America. “Once there are accepted reference values, appropriate guidelines for supplementation and fortified foods will be available, as well as guidelines for labeling and other forms of consumer communications.” He continued, “In the case of vitamin E, the current DRI was established in 2000 and needs to be revisited. Since then, thousands of studies have been conducted on vitamin E’s role in cardiovascular health, diabetes, eye health, immune function and more recently cognitive health.”
The U.S. and Canadian government agencies also announced a workshop in 2015 on the potential use of chronic disease endpoints in setting DRI values for the selected nutrients. This workshop will address whether and how chronic disease outcomes can be incorporated into setting DRI values, which would be a landmark in the history of the DRIs. Historically the DRIs, and formerly the RDAs, were viewed as the amount of a nutrient needed simply to prevent deficiency disease in the majority of the population.