`Nutri-Score Adoption Can Help Curb Cancer Epidemic, Researchers Say - Olive Oil Times

Nutri-Score Adoption Can Help Curb Cancer Epidemic, Researchers Say

By Paolo DeAndreis
Sep. 20, 2021 14:31 UTC

Nutri-Score is the best food front-of-pack label­ing (FOPL) sys­tem on the mar­ket and should be urgently adopted, accord­ing to the lat­est find­ings of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

The agency’s report found that Nutri-Score’s sci­en­tific basis is solid, con­sumers appre­ci­ate it and the FOPL can help lower the risk of devel­op­ing can­cer and other dis­eases.

There is clear sci­en­tific evi­dence on the rel­e­vance of this label­ing sys­tem and its poten­tial pub­lic health impact at the inter­na­tional level.- Inge Huybrechts, researcher, IARC

In their paper, IARC sci­en­tists empha­sized how com­pre­hen­sive inves­ti­ga­tions into the food choices of dif­fer­ent European pop­u­la­tions have shown that those who con­sume prod­ucts with lower Nutri-Score rat­ings face a higher risk of devel­op­ing can­cer and mor­tal­ity from can­cer-related issues.

Other than devel­op­ing can­cer the IARC also found that those who indulge in poorly-rated food con­sump­tion tend to develop cir­cu­la­tory, res­pi­ra­tory or diges­tive sys­tem dis­eases, show­ing an over­all higher ten­dency to die pre­ma­turely.

See Also:Italy’s Largest PDO Cheese Consortia Unite to Oppose Nutri-Score

The reduced mor­tal­ity and can­cer risk related to ele­vated con­sump­tion of foods with favor­able Nutri-Score rat­ings has been sci­en­tif­i­cally estab­lished, and it is crit­i­cal to step up its use in Europe and beyond,” said Mathilde Touvier, the prin­ci­pal inves­ti­ga­tor of the IARC project and head of the nutri­tional epi­demi­ol­ogy at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research.

The IARC’s spe­cific atten­tion to the Nutri-Score adop­tion in Europe is due to the European Commission’s plan to estab­lish a har­mo­nized food label­ing sys­tem through­out the E.U. within next year.

Nutri-Score is widely con­sid­ered the front-run­ner and has been adopted in sev­eral coun­tries in the 27-mem­bers bloc.

Nutri-Score has an impor­tant role to play, not only to help con­sumers make informed choices about the nutri­tional qual­ity of their diet but also to incen­tivize food man­u­fac­tur­ers to improve the nutri­tional qual­ity of their prod­ucts and to help gov­ern­ments imple­ment effi­cient strate­gies to pre­vent can­cer and other nutri­tion-related dis­eases,” Touvier said.

According to the IARC find­ings, Nutri-Score adop­tion should hap­pen as quickly as pos­si­ble and should be made manda­tory.

There is clear sci­en­tific evi­dence on the rel­e­vance of this label­ing sys­tem and its poten­tial pub­lic health impact at the inter­na­tional level,” said Inge Huybrechts, one of the main inves­ti­ga­tors of the IARC research project.

While its adop­tion by sev­eral European Union coun­tries is wel­come, a manda­tory use of this front-of-pack nutri­tion label is urgently needed, to help con­sumers and to make a real dif­fer­ence,” she added.

The IARC reached its con­clu­sions due to the inner work­ings of the French-born label­ing sys­tem and the results of epi­demic stud­ies such as the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study, which was con­ducted for many years on more than half a mil­lion vol­un­teers.

In the report, IARC researchers empha­sized how the Nutri-Score algo­rithm works by the terms of the FSAm-NPS score, a food and bev­er­age-level score that takes the qual­i­ties and con­tents of 100 grams or 100 mil­li­liters of food into con­sid­er­a­tion.

The algo­rithm con­sid­ers sev­eral pos­i­tive foods and nutri­ents – dietary fibers, pro­teins, fruits, veg­eta­bles, legumes and nuts – along with neg­a­tive ones – sug­ars, sat­u­rated fats and sodium – to arrive at a color-let­ter rat­ing sys­tem rang­ing from the health­i­est Green A” to the least healthy Red E.”


A higher FSAm-NPS DI (dietary index) score reflects an over­all lower nutri­tional qual­ity of foods con­sumed,” the report reads.

The researchers added that the 15-year EPIC study fol­low-up showed a strong con­nec­tion between the can­cer cases that devel­oped among the European vol­un­teers and their FSAm-NPS score.


Those indi­vid­u­als with the high­est FSAm-NPS DI scores had a higher risk of devel­op­ing can­cers over­all, and specif­i­cally can­cers of the colo-rec­tum and liver (espe­cially in women), upper aerodi­ges­tive tract and stom­ach and lung (in men),” the researchers wrote. For sex-spe­cific can­cers of the repro­duc­tive sys­tem, a higher FSAm-NPS DI score was asso­ci­ated with a higher risk of post­menopausal breast can­cer and prostate can­cer.”

Nutri-Score is a promis­ing tool that has been pro­posed to pro­mote a health­ier food envi­ron­ment, by sim­pli­fy­ing nutri­tion infor­ma­tion for con­sumers while pro­vid­ing front-of-pack, inter­pre­ta­tive and easy-to-use infor­ma­tion on the nutri­tional qual­ity of food prod­ucts that will enable con­sumers to make health­ier food choices,” they added.

In addi­tion, because the Nutri-Score is eas­ily com­putable by indus­trial and pub­lic stake­hold­ers, it encour­ages the food indus­try to improve the nutri­tional qual­ity of the food sup­ply,” it added.

Nutri-Score already has been adopted in France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Spain. However, sev­eral other coun­tries, such as Italy, strongly oppose its intro­duc­tion.

Among the most deter­mined oppo­nents of Nutri-Score is the European olive oil indus­try, many of whom protest the Yellow C” with which extra vir­gin olive oil is rated.

If we look at the Nutri-Score clas­si­fi­ca­tion sys­tem with its five col­ors and five let­ters, we find extra vir­gin olive oil far­ing even worse than some [diet] sodas,” Anna Cane, pres­i­dent of the olive oil group of the Association of the Italian Oil Industry (Assitol), told Olive Oil Times in a November 2020 inter­view.

And that hap­pens even if extra vir­gin olive oil’s ben­e­fi­cial effects on health are the sub­ject of an ever-grow­ing vari­ety of sci­en­tific dis­cov­er­ies,” she added.

Several ini­tia­tives have been launched in Spain, Italy and other European coun­tries to oppose Nutri-Score’s extra vir­gin olive oil clas­si­fi­ca­tion.

Madrid has already reas­sured the local pro­duc­ers that olive oil will be exempted from using the label, while the International Olive Council is cur­rently work­ing to have Nutri-Score re-clas­sify extra vir­gin olive oil with a Green A.”

Serge Hercberg, the cre­ator of Nutri-Score, told Olive Oil Times in a July 2020 inter­view that the Yellow C for olive oil is the best score pos­si­ble for added fats and even for veg­etable oils.”

The pub­lic health rec­om­men­da­tions do not sug­gest con­sum­ing olive oil with­out lim­its, but they encour­age con­sumers to favor it over other veg­etable oils and espe­cially over ani­mal fats,” he said.


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