Nutrient Unit Conversions

Nutrient Unit Conversions

With the release of the new rules for Nutrition Facts Labels, some of the nutrient measurement units have been revised. This blog covers those revisions and gives you the formulas for calculating the changes.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D was a voluntary nutrient shown on the label in IUs, but is now a mandatory nutrient listed in mcg. (Vitamin D IUs may be listed voluntarily in parenthesis as well.)

  • Unit conversion: 1 mcg = 40 IU

So, to find the number of mcg, you need to divide your total number of IUs by 40.

  • Calculation: IU/40 = mcg
    (divide the number of IUs by 40)

Vitamin A

Vitamin A was a mandatory nutrient and is now a voluntary label nutrient. If Vitamin A is listed on the new nutrition label it must be listed in mcg of Retinol Activity Equivalents (RAE), which is a change in unit from the pre-existing label, where Vitamin A was listed in IUs.

The conversion from IUs to mcg RAE considers whether the Vitamin A is coming from an animal source (retinol) or a plant source (carotenoids), or a combination of sources. We have calculated this conversion for foods in the ESHA database where possible.

For foods that you enter yourself, you can determine the Vitamin A mcg RAE value by converting from IUs using these formulas:

Animal source: retinol

  • Unit conversion: 1 mcg RAE = 3.33 IU
  • Calculation: IU/3.33 = mcg RAE
    (divide the number of IUs by 3.33)

Plant source: beta-carotene equivalents from food

  • Unit conversion: 1 mcg RAE = 20 IU
  • Calculation: IU/20 = mcg RAE
    (divide the number of IUs by 20)

Plant source: beta-carotene from a supplement source

  • Unit conversion: 1 mcg RAE = 6.67 IU
  • Calculation: IU/6.67 = mcg RAE
    (divide the number of IUs by 6.67)

Plant source: alpha-carotene or beta-cryptoxanthin

  • Unit conversion: 1 mcg RAE = 40 IU
  • Calculation: IU/40 = mcg RAE
    (divide the number of IUs by 40)

When working with ingredients where the vitamin A comes from a combination of animal and plant sources, you may need to contact your suppliers for more detail. This is also the case with vitamin E and folate.


Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a voluntary nutrient whose label unit has changed from IU to mg of alpha-tocopherol. The conversion factor you use depends on whether the source is natural or synthetic.

Natural source: from food

  • Unit conversion: 1 mg alpha-tocopherol = 1.5 IU
  • Calculation: IU/1.5 = mg alpha-tocopherol
    (divide the number of IUs by 1.5)

Synthetic source: from supplement

  • Unit conversion: 1 mg alpha-tocopherol = 1.11 IU
  • Calculation: IU/1.11 = mg alpha-tocopherol
    (divide the number of IUs by 1.11)

Niacin

Niacin is a voluntary nutrient whose label unit has changed from mg of Niacin to mg of Niacin Equivalents (NE). Niacin Equivalents include niacin converted from the amino acid tryptophan.

From Niacin

  • Unit conversion: 1 mg Niacin Equivalent = 1 mg Niacin
  • Calculation: None needed.
    (The units are equivalent.)

From the amino acid tryptophan

  • Unit conversion: 1 mg Niacin Equivalent = 60 mg tryptophan
  • Calculation: tryptophan/60 = mg Niacin Equivalent
    (divide the mg of tryptophan by 60)

Folate

Folate is a voluntary nutrient whose label unit has changed from mcg to mcg DFE (Dietary Folate Equivalents). The conversion factor depends on the source of folate.

Natural source: from food

  • Unit conversion: 1 mcg DFE = 1 mcg Folate from food
  • Calculation: None needed.
    (The units are equivalent.)

Synthetic source: from supplement

  • Unit conversion: 1 mcg DFE = 0.6 mcg Folic Acid
  • Calculation: Folic Acid/0.6 = mcg Folate DFE
    (divide the mcg of Folic Acid by 0.6)

Dietary Fiber

The final rule incorporates two major changes to the dietary fiber declaration—a definition of “dietary fiber,” a term that FDA had not previously defined, and an increase in the DRV from 25 grams to 28 grams. The new definition focuses on reporting fiber that is considered beneficial to human health. To learn more about this topic check out our Dietary Fiber Blog Series.

Beneficial fiber

  • Unit conversion: 1 gm Total Dietary Fiber = 1 gm Dietary Fiber 2016
  • Calculation: None needed.
    (The units are equivalent.)

Not beneficial fiber

  • Unit conversion: 1 gm Total Dietary Fiber = 0 gm Dietary Fiber 2016
  • Calculation: None needed, essentially.
    (If the fiber is not beneficial, it can't be listed as Dietary Fiber for the 2016 nutrition labeling rules.)

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