If the Greeks have the Acropolis… nutrition has its acronyms to quantify and objectify our dietary needs.
VNR, AJR, DJM, AQR, RPN are the most frequently encountered in product labeling.
In this article, we offer you a short summary to better understand their usefulness and their limits.
ANR, VNR, AQR, DJM, What are they used for?
In practice we always try to define the needs for each nutrient according to 3 main concepts:
- The minimum level that helps avoid deficiencies, malnutrition or impaired growth.
- The maximum daily level beyond which negative effects can be observed.
- The optimal intake range.
Reality makes these estimates quite complex because the factors of variation in needs are multiple:
- Sex etc.
To carry out this necessary and useful work, there is a structure in Europe dedicated to this research: the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority), which is one of the world's leading institutions.
EFSA and the definition of NRVs (nutrient reference values)
Since 2005, the EFSA has been specifying and harmonizing dietary requirements , nutrient by nutrient, for different age categories. The central reference being “the healthy adult”.
These studies use all available scientific results (experiments, meta-studies, consumer surveys, etc.) and result in the definition of NRVs (Nutritional Reference Values) expressed in terms of daily needs.
These VNRs are therefore specified for different ages and are associated with subcategories such as:
- Average nutritional requirements (BM)
- Nutritional References for the Population (RNP )
- The Upper Safety Limits (LSS) which mainly concern micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and establish daily thresholds not to be exceeded. *
* Note that vitamin B12 is one of the rare vitamins for which no maximum level is set.
Who are the VNRs set by EFSA intended for?
The EFSA reports have the merit of being complete and exhaustive but are not intended for the general public (except to accompany each food product with a booklet of around ten pages!).
They are above all working documents for professionals and legislators.
The NRVs are therefore, for each nutrient, an objective synthesis of information about minimum, maximum, average needs and for different categories of people.
ANCs: the reference for French consumers
In France, the EFSA VNRs are used as a working basis by ANSES (National Health Safety Agency) for the definition of food labeling standards and ANC (Recommended Nutritional Intakes) .
These NRVs are also used to define the DJM (maximum daily doses): a particularly important concept for food supplements (even if certain defined thresholds remain very debatable, see the case of Iodine below)
In Europe and France, nutritional needs are therefore studied in depth and scientifically, with the main objective of guaranteeing maximum safety to avoid deficiencies or overdoses.
We also note a great convergence of results with other institutions (North American in particular) which work on these questions, apart from a few details.
The main limits of these values
1. The ANCs are not a maximum limit not to be exceeded
As mentioned above, optimal needs evolve within a relatively wide range: the ANC gives a recommended value for convenience but there is never any risk of being 'a little above' these contributions, as long as it remains below the “DJM”.
This is particularly true for all categories of people with increased nutritional needs* which are the subject of less in-depth studies:
- Growing youth
- Sportsmen etc.
*With the exception of pregnant women whose needs are above average but increasingly better taken into account)
This is also the case for vitamin B12 intakes (again) for which the ANC is recognized as much too low (2.5µg/day) particularly for plant-based diets: daily intakes of 10 µg/day are considered safer.
In France, the recommendations for Iodine are also paradoxical because the recommended daily dose is equal to the Maximum Dose (150µg), which is obviously not realistic: there are therefore always adjustments that need to be made.
2. Actual nutrient absorption
The last limit and not the least concerns the actual absorption* of nutrients and this concerns in particular essential vitamins and minerals.
Even if the VNR and ANC take into account an average absorption percentage of each nutrient, this absorption remains very variable and under the influence of factors that are sometimes difficult to understand.
In fact, the actual absorption of a nutrient rarely exceeds 50% of the dose but can also be at much lower levels.
These significant variations can be linked to:
- Molecular shape
- The presence or absence of other absorption 'facilitators'
- To the individual
- Certain medications (metformin used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes interferes with the absorption of vitamin B12).
The absorption of iron, for example, varies from less than 5 to 20% depending on the additional conditions of its intake:
- Origin of Iron
- Association with boosters or not
- Presence of inhibitors etc.
To determine the ANC of Iron, an average absorption of 10% was used.
The ANC is 15 mg per day for absorbed iron requirements of approximately 1.5 mg/day.
The fact of ingesting enough Iron does not necessarily guarantee that your needs will be covered, this is particularly the case with Iron from plants, which is very poorly absorbed, which is why our Argalys Iron formula is reinforced with absorption boosters such as vitamin C and pro vitamin A.
* absorption designates the part that is really useful to the body: the part of the quantity ingested which is not rejected in the stools or in the urine but which passes into the blood.
The VNR and ANC are good references for defining daily intakes and nutritional needs are defined seriously, to the best of current knowledge, and by independent experts.
The optimal range of micronutrient intakes nevertheless remains important 'around' the ANC.
It is likely that further clarifications will be provided for the needs of Seniors and other specific categories and also depending on progress in knowledge concerning the factors of variation in the actual absorption of micronutrients.