The European Food Safety Authority, or EFSA, has set average requirements (ARs) for energy intake for adults, infants, children and pregnant and breastfeeding women, in order to estimate the energy needs of European citizens and assist policymakers in making dietary guidelines for public health.
According to thisnew scientific opinion, energy requirements are the amount of energy from food needed to maintain body mass, growth and development and support a level of physical activity consistent with long-term good health. Energy provided in the diet comes form various sources, such as carbohydrates, fats, protein and alcohol, and as a result dietary reference values (DRVs) for energy are not specified as defined amounts of a single nutrient, but are expressed in units of energy.
EFSA’s scientific advice on energy requirements was presented in the latest of a series of scientific opinions on DRVs produced by the Authority’s Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA Panel), on request from the European Commission. The average energy requirements of the specified age and sex groups were calculated to take account of different levels of physical activity, and are based on an assumed healthy body mass index of 22kg/m2. For example, the panel has set the following ARs, based on a moderately active lifestyle:
In the case of pregnancy, an increase in body mass of 12kg was considered to be associated with optimal maternal and fetal health outcomes. The additional amounts of energy required to support pregnancy were estimated at 70 kcal/day, 260 kcal/day and 500 kcal/day during the first, second and third trimesters, respectively. Additionally, an average energy requirement of an estimated 500 kcal/day was suggested for women who exclusively breastfeed for six months after birth.
The ARs take into account physical activity levels (PALs) that correspond to sedentary, moderately active, very active and highly active lifestyles. These PALs are defined by factors such as: type of work, the amount of daily exercise taken, and daily household tasks undertaken, including shopping and cooking. The ARs should be adjusted according to different contexts, such as for people or population groups with BMIs above or below 22kg/m2.