Applications of Globally Harmonized Nutrients

Research Focus Area:

Applications of Globally Harmonized Nutrients

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Brief Summary: This project will establish a framework for assessing global applications of nutrient recommendations for global, regional, group and individual planning, develop a consensus on standardized nutrient equivalencies and units for food labeling (e.g., for Fe, Zn, Ca and vitamin E), and work with the ILSI federation to determine the needs of other regions around the world.

Rationale and Approach: This project aims to facilitate regional adaptations of harmonized or regional nutrient requirements. Globally harmonized nutrient recommendations (or H-AR)(1-3) or regional recommendations need to be adjusted for bioavailability for many micronutrients. Algorithms that consider absorption enhancers and inhibitors (such as oxalate and phytate for minerals) can be used in formulation and labeling the bioavailable nutrient content per serving, to assess and plan intakes of population groups globally, to provide a common basis for comparing the nutrient intake of populations, and to develop national and regional strategies for ameliorating nutrient deficiencies.

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The first algorithm being developed is calcium, as calcium deficiency is prevalent worldwide (4). A calcium task force convened by the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation recently published population-wide strategies using food-based interventions to improve low calcium intakes (5). The proposed project will serve as the exemplar for assessing nutrient contents of foods and diets, as well as evaluating strategies for improving nutrition. Next steps will be to evaluate micronutrients prioritized by the committee.



  1. Develop algorithm to predict calcium absorption, to improve prediction of calcium absorption based on bioavailability.
  2. Apply algorithm to the nutrient balance sheets (NBS) and determine country-adjusted requirements and adequacy ratios, to estimate the prevalence of inadequate calcium intake for each country using bioavailability-adjusted requirements.

Under Consideration: 

  1. Extending the bioavailability algorithms for various applications in any direction. 
  2. Develop standardized nutrient equivalencies for label information. 
  3. Convene and report on a two-day experts' dialogue workshop about issues related to vitamin K, A, E, iron and others. Define criteria for the forms of vitamin E, Mg, Fe, etc. and discuss a labeling system that can be applied to food composition databases.

Proposed Deliverables:

  1. Publications of developed algorithms and their application.
  2. Literature or scoping reviews.
  3. Systematic reviews (with or without meta-analysis).
  4. Seminars, workshops and/or informational sessions.


  1. Allen, L.H., et al. (2022) Considerations for implementing globally harmonized nutrient reference values: Summary of a meeting. Advances in Nutrition (in Review).
  2. Allen, L.H., et al. (2020) Perspective: proposed harmonized nutrient reference values for populations. Advances in Nutrition 11: 469-483.
  3. Yaktine, A.L., et al. (2020) Why the derivation of nutrient reference values should be harmonized and how it can be accomplished. Advances in Nutrition 11: 1102-1107.
  4. Shlisky, J., et al. (2022) Calcium deficiency worldwide: prevalence of inadequate intakes and associated health outcomes. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (in Press).
  5. Bourassa, M.W., et al. (2022) Interventions to improve calcium intake through foods in populations with low intake. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (in Press).

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