The role of diet- and host-related factors in nutrient bioavailability and thus in nutrient-based dietary requirement estimates

Food Nutr Bull. 2007 Mar;28(1 Suppl International):S77-100. doi: 10.1177/15648265070281S108.


To convert physiological requirements into dietary requirements, adjustments are needed for some nutrients that take into account certain diet- and host-related factors specific to a country or region. Nutrients whose requirements should be adjusted in this way include calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, protein, folate, vitamin A, and carotenoids. The diet-related factors that must be considered depend on the nature of the habitual diet and may include the chemical form of the nutrient and the nature of the dietary matrix, interactions between nutrients and/or organic components, and food preparation and processing practices within the country or region. The host-related factors can be further subdivided into intestinal and systemic factors. Reductions in the secretion of hydrochloric acid, gastric acid, and/or intrinsic factor, together with alterations in the permeability of the intestinal mucosa, are all examples of intestinal factors that can markedly influence the absorption of certain nutrients, but that are often ignored when setting dietary requirements. Systemic factors that should also be considered include nutrient status of the host, age, sex, ethnicity, genotype, and physiological state (e.g., pregnancy or lactation), and chronic and acute infectious disease states. Algorithms can estimate the bioavailability of iron, zinc, protein, folate, vitamin A, and carotenoids, although their accuracy is limited by the complex interactions among the absorption modifiers in the whole diet. For calcium and magnesium, the amount available for absorption is still estimated from their major food sources in the habitual diet. Currently, there are often large differences in the adjustments employed to convert physiological requirements to dietary requirements, even among countries consuming diets of similar patterns.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Algorithms
  • Biological Availability
  • Diet / standards*
  • Food Handling / methods
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption
  • Micronutrients / administration & dosage
  • Micronutrients / pharmacokinetics*
  • Micronutrients / physiology
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena / physiology*
  • Nutritional Requirements*
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Nutritive Value
  • Sex Factors


  • Micronutrients