Public Health Nutrition

Research Paper

A multipurpose tool to evaluate the nutritional quality of individual foods: Nutrimap®

E Labouzea1 c1, C Goffia1, L Moulaya1 and V Azaïs-Braescoa2

a1 BIO Intelligence Service, 1 rue Berthelot, F-94200 Ivry/Seine, France

a2 CRNH–Auvergne, BP 321, F-63000 Clermont-Ferrand, France

Abstract

Background/objectives With obesity and nutrition-related diseases rising, public health authorities have recently insisted nutritional quality be included when advertising and labelling food. The concept of nutritional quality is, however, difficult to define. In this paper we present an innovative, science-based nutrient profiling system, Nutrimap®, which quantifies nutritional assets and weaknesses of foods.

Methods The position of a food is defined according to its nutritional composition, food category, the consumer's nutritional needs, consumption data and major public health objectives for nutrition. Amounts of each of 15 relevant nutrients (in 100 kcal) are scored according to their ability to ‘rebalance’ or ‘unbalance’ the supply in the whole diet, compared with current recommendations and intakes. These scores are weighted differently in different food categories according to the measured relevance of the category to a nutrient's supply. Positive (assets) and negative (weaknesses) scores are totalled separately.

Results Nutrimap® provides an overall estimate of the nutritional quality of same-category foods, enabling easy comparisons as exemplified for cereals and fruit/vegetables. Results are consistent with major nutritional recommendations and match classifications provided by other systems. Simulations for breakfasts show that Nutrimap® can help design meals of controlled nutritional value.

Conclusions Combining objective scientific bases with pragmatic concerns, Nutrimap® appears to be effective in comparing food items. Decision-makers can set their own limits within the Nutrimap®-defined assets and weaknesses of foods and reach categorisations consistent with their objectives – from regulatory purposes to consumer information or support for designing meals (catering) or new products (food industry).

(Received December 20 2005)

(Accepted September 26 2006)

(Online publication February 20 2007)

Correspondence

c1 *Corresponding author: Email eric.labouze@biois.com

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