Setting standards through harmonizing recommended dietary allowances in Southeast Asia

Using World Health Organization standards to assess and predict the prevalence of childhood obesity among Children in Asia 3The harmonization of recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) in the Southeast Asia (SEA) region is a collective effort of participating countries to achieve improvement in health, nutrition and welfare. This is accomplished by facilitating consumer education and improving public health for all populations in the region.

RDA refers to the daily intake level of a nutrient that is sufficient to meet the requirements of approximately 97% to 99% of apparently healthy individuals in a population taking into account age- and sex-specific needs.1 As dietary standards vary and terms such as RDA and recommended nutrient intake (RNI) differ across the region, the SEA-RDA Committee seeks to standardize a set of nutrient allowances for the SEA region.

The first Regional Forum and Workshop on RDA, convened by the International Life Sciences Institute-SEA Region (ILSI-SEA Region), was held in Singapore in 1997. It facilitated discussions on the need for regional collaboration and harmonization of RDAs. Supported by ILSI-SEA and the Food and the Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, a series of workshops and working group meetings were convened from 1997 to 2003. Representatives from Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, as well as other international and regional nutrition experts and regulators contributed their valuable perspectives and formulated agreements on a harmonized set of RDAs for the SEA region (SEA-RDAs).

ILSI-SEA published a Monograph that documents the set of SEA-RDAs and defines them as “the levels of intake of energy and dietary components, which on the basis of current scientific knowledge, are considered adequate for the maintenance of health and well-being of nearly all healthy persons in the population.”2 The tabulated SEA-RDAs can be found in the appendix of the Monograph and include energy requirements, protein, seven vitamins and five minerals.2

The Monograph contains 14 papers on the uses and applications of energy and core nutrients including protein, calcium, iron, iodine, zinc, selenium, vitamin A, vitamin B1 (thiamin), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin C, vitamin D and folate. It also includes population groupings and reference body weights.2

The ILSI-SEA hopes that the Monograph on the harmonization of RDAs in SEA can serve as a reference for countries in the region that are developing or revisiting their national RDA values. This would enable them to create food-based dietary guidelines for an optimized well-being of their residents.


  1. Recommended Dietary Allowances, 10th ed., 1989 ( accessed 28 December 2015)
  2. Recommended Dietary Allowances – Harmonization in Southeast Asia. International Life Sciences Institute-Southeast Asia Region, 2005 (, accessed 28 December 2015.)