In African-American girls, onset of breast development is earlier (mean 8.9 years ± 1.9). The reason for the observed racial differences in the age at which girls enter puberty is unknown. The onset of the growth spurt in girls begins before the onset of breast development (Tanner, 1990). The age group of 9 through 13 years allows for this early growth spurt of females.
For boys, the mean age of initiation of testicular development is 10.5 to 11 years, and their growth spurt begins 2 years later (Tanner, 1990). Thus, to begin the second age category at 14 years and to have different EARs and AIs for girls and boys for some nutrients at this age seems biologically appropriate. All children continue to grow to some extent until as late as age 20 years; therefore, having these two age categories span the period 9 through 18 years of age seems justified.
The recognition of the possible value of higher nutrient intakes during early adulthood on achieving optimal genetic potential for peak bone mass was the reason for dividing adulthood into ages 19 through 30 years and 31 through 50 years. Moreover, mean energy expenditure decreases from 19 through 50 years, and needs for nutrients related to energy metabolism may also decrease. For some nutrients, such as sodium and potassium in this report, the DRIs may be the same for the two age groups. However, for other nutrients, especially those related to energy metabolism, EARs (and thus RDAs) and AIs are likely to differ for these two age groups.
The age period of 51 through 70 years spans active work years for most adults. After age 70 years, people of the same age increasingly display variability in physiological functioning and physical activity. A comparison of people over age 70 years who are the same chronological age may demonstrate as much as a 15- to 20-year age-related difference in level of reserve capacity and functioning. This is demonstrated by age-related declines in nutrient absorption and renal function. Because of the high variability in functional capacity of older adults, the EARs and AIs for this age group may reflect a greater variability in requirements for the older age categories. This