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Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL)

The tolerable upper intake level (UL) is the maximum usual daily intake levels at which no risk of adverse health effects is expected for most of the individuals in a specific group based on stage of life. The risk of adverse reactions increases as intake exceeds the UL.

The term “tolerable” was chosen because it connotes a level of intake that can, with high probability, be tolerated biologically by individuals. The UL must not be considered a recommended level of intake. Currently, there is no research demonstrating a benefit for healthy individuals to consume quantities of nutrients above the recommended dietary allowance or adequate intake, except in a few specific cases (such as folate for pregnant women to prevent neural-tube defects).

The UL is based on a process for assessing the risk of adverse effects of nutrients (Dietary Reference Intakes: A Risk Assessment Model for Establishing Upper Intake Levels for Nutrients, Institute of Medicine, 1998). The necessity of establishing ULs arose from the growing trend towards enriching food with nutrients and from the supplement fad. There may not be enough data to establish ULs for some nutrients. Clearly, significant consumption of these nutrients should be approached with caution and may involve the risk of adverse effects.