Chapter 4 reveals major discrepancies between estimates of usual intakes of calcium and the AI for calcium for some of the life stage groups. For example, mean calcium intake from foods for U.S. females aged 9 years and older is about 650 mg (16.3 mmol)/day, but the AI for calcium ranges from 1,000 to 1,300 mg (25 to 32.5 mmol)/day, depending on the age group. However, this discrepancy does not necessarily mean that dietary intakes are generally inadequate because the relationship between the AI and the distribution of requirements for the nutrient is not known. Nevertheless, for individuals who wish to increase their calcium consumption, there are several possible strategies. These include increasing intake of foods high in calcium, such as low- or nonfat milk products, and increasing consumption of foods fortified with calcium, such as calcium-fortified orange juice or breakfast cereals. For those individuals at high risk, use of calcium supplements may be desirable in order to meet the AI. Identifying the most appropriate strategies to improve nutrient intake should be the focus of a research agenda.
The correct reference value must be used for its intended purpose, which usually involves either planning for an adequate intake or the assessment of adequacy of intake. It is anticipated that future publications will address the interpretation and appropriate uses of DRIs in more detail in order to assist both the health professional and those interested in nutrition policy and analysis.