`Researchers Offer a Different Approach to Rating Foods - Olive Oil Times

Researchers Offer a Different Approach to Rating Foods

Oct. 26, 2021
Paolo DeAndreis

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A new food rat­ing sys­tem will allow insti­tu­tions, pro­duc­ers and con­sumers in the United States to make health­ier diet choices, accord­ing to a researcher team from Tufts University.

The researchers said that the results of their study, pub­lished in Nature, show the Food Compass Score (FCS) could also improve the qual­ity of exist­ing prod­ucts, help estab­lish new health­ier dietary guide­lines and even inform agri­cul­tural trade poli­cies.

The nutri­tional index took three years to develop and rates prod­ucts from one to 100, the lat­ter being the health­i­est score.

See Also: Newly-Proposed Med Index Rating Seeks to Surpass Nutri-Score and Nutrinform

The researchers wrote that FCS was devel­oped and tested using a detailed national data­base of 8,032 foods and bev­er­ages con­sumed by Americans.”

It scores 54 dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter­is­tics across nine domains rep­re­sent­ing dif­fer­ent health-rel­e­vant aspects of foods, drinks and mixed meals, pro­vid­ing for one of the most com­pre­hen­sive nutri­ent pro­fil­ing sys­tems in the world,” they added.

The char­ac­ter­is­tics and domains were selected based on nutri­tional attrib­utes linked to major chronic dis­eases, such as obe­sity, dia­betes, car­dio­vas­cu­lar prob­lems and can­cer, as well as to the risk of under­nu­tri­tion, espe­cially for moth­ers, young chil­dren and the elderly,” the researchers con­tin­ued.

Fruits have the high­est aver­age scores, of 73.9, with most raw fruits scor­ing 100. Meanwhile, veg­eta­bles receive an aver­age score of 69.1, with sim­i­lar rat­ings given to legumes, nuts and seeds.

Among bev­er­ages, 100-per­cent fruit juices score 67 on aver­age, while energy drinks and sugar-sweet­ened sodas receive a 27.6.

FCS gives a score of 85 to olive oils, mak­ing it the health­i­est choice for added fats. By com­par­i­son, lard receives a 19.

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Tufts University

The fact that healthy prod­ucts, such as olive oil, receive a higher rat­ing com­pared to other food rat­ing sys­tems – such as Nutri-Score, which gives olive oil the third-high­est rat­ing out of five – should not come as a sur­prise.

According to the researchers, FCS focuses on the nutri­tional qual­i­ties of food and takes its unhealthy attrib­utes into account. This is a slightly dif­fer­ent approach com­pared to other major food rat­ing sys­tems.

In the European Union, food label­ing sys­tems such as Nutri-Score tend to focus on poten­tially harm­ful char­ac­ter­is­tics of food such as calo­ries, sat­u­rated fat and sodium con­tent.

Contrastly, FCS includes cer­tain micronu­tri­ents and phy­to­chem­i­cals that are not always con­sid­ered by other food rat­ing sys­tems.

Nutrients, food ingre­di­ents and how they are processed are scored based on the lat­est cut­ting-edge sci­ence,” the researchers wrote, adding that the scores would be reg­u­larly updated.

Unlike other food rat­ing sys­tems, the researchers added that FCS can be used to rate mixed dishes and meals using one con­sis­tent score (exist­ing sys­tems sub­jec­tively group and score foods dif­fer­ently).”

The researchers used pizza as an exam­ple. In the case of pizza, many other sys­tems have sep­a­rate scor­ing algo­rithms for the wheat, meat and cheese, but not the fin­ished prod­uct,” they wrote.

Consistent scor­ing of diverse items can also help assess and com­pare com­bi­na­tions of food and bev­er­ages that could be sold and con­sumed together, such as an entire shop­ping bas­ket, a person’s daily diet pat­tern or a port­fo­lio of foods sold by a par­tic­u­lar com­pany,” the researchers added.

Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Friedman School at Tufts University, said that once you get beyond eat your veg­gies, avoid soda,’ the pub­lic is pretty con­fused about how to iden­tify health­ier choices in the gro­cery store, cafe­te­ria, and restau­rant.”

Researchers hope that FCS will encour­age the food indus­try to develop health­ier food and refor­mu­late the cur­rent prod­ucts. It could also be used as the basis for local and national poli­cies regard­ing pack­age label­ing, tax­a­tion and restric­tions on mar­ket­ing to chil­dren.

They added that the sys­tem could be used nearly every­where once adopted, includ­ing in food shops, restau­rants, hos­pi­tals and schools.

The sci­ence-based FCS also could be used to inform agri­cul­tural trade pol­icy and guide insti­tu­tional and indi­vid­ual investors on envi­ron­men­tal, social and cor­po­rate gov­er­nance invest­ment deci­sions,” the researchers con­cluded.





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