If sufficient scientific evidence is not available to calculate an EAR, a reference intake called an Adequate Intake (AI) is used instead of an RDA. The AI is a value based on experimentally derived intake levels or approximations of observed mean nutrient intakes by a group (or groups) of healthy people. In the opinion of the committee, the AI for children and adults is expected to meet or exceed the amount needed to maintain a defined nutritional state or criterion of adequacy in essentially all members of a specific healthy population. Examples of defined nutritional states include normal growth, maintenance of normal circulating nutrient values, or other aspects of nutritional well-being or general health.
The AI is set when data are considered to be insufficient or inadequate to establish an EAR on which an RDA would be based. For example, for young infants for whom human milk is the recommended sole source of food for most nutrients for the first 4 to 6 months, the AI is based on the daily mean nutrient intake supplied by human milk for healthy, full-term infants who are exclusively breastfed. For adults the AI may be based on data from a single experiment (e.g., choline), on estimated dietary intakes in apparently healthy population groups (e.g., biotin and pantothenic acid), or on a review of data from different approaches that considered alone do not permit a reasonably confident estimate of an EAR (e.g., dietary and experimental intakes of calcium).
The issuance of an AI indicates that more research is needed to determine with some degree of confidence the mean and distribution of requirements for a specific nutrient. When this research is completed, it should be possible to replace AI estimates with EARs and RDAs.
Similarities. Both the AI and RDA are to be used as a goal for individual intake. In general the values are intended to cover the needs of nearly all persons in a life stage group. (For infants the AI is the mean intake when infants in the age group are consuming human milk. Larger infants may have greater needs, which they meet by consuming more milk.) As with RDAs, AIs for children and adolescents may be extrapolated from adult values if no other usable data are available.
Differences. There is much less certainty about the AI value than about the RDA value. Because AIs depend on a greater degree of