Skip to main content
×
Home
    • Aa
    • Aa

A perspective on food energy standards for nutrition labelling

  • Geoffrey Livesey (a1)
Abstract

Food energy values used for nutrition labelling and other purposes are traditionally based on the metabolisable energy (ME) standard, which has recent support from Warwick & Baines (2000). By reference to current practices and published data, the present review critically examines the ME standard and support for it. Theoretical and experimental evidence on the validity of ME and alternatives are considered. ME and alternatives are applied to 1189 foods to assess outcomes. The potential impact of implementing a better standard in food labelling, documentation of energy requirements and food tables, and its impact on users including consumers, trade and professionals, are also examined. Since 1987 twenty-two expert reviews, reports and regulatory documents have fully or partly dropped the ME standard. The principal reason given is that ME only approximates energy supply by nutrients, particularly fermentable carbohydrates. ME has been replaced by net metabolisable energy (NME), which accounts for the efficiency of fuel utilisation in metabolism. Data collated from modern indirect calorimetry studies in human subjects show NME to be valid and applicable to each source of food energy, not just carbohydrates. NME is robust; two independent approaches give almost identical results (human calorimetry and calculation of free energy or net ATP yield) and these approaches are well supported by studies in animals. By contrast, the theoretical basis of ME is totally flawed. ME incompletely represents the energy balance equation, with substantial energy losses in a missing term. In using NME factors an account is made of frequent over-approximations by the ME system, up to 25 % of the NME for individual foods among 1189 foods in British tables, particularly low-energy-density traditional foods. A new simple general factor system is possible based on NME, yet the minimal experimental methodology is no more than that required for ME. By accounting for unavailable carbohydrate the new factor system appears as specific to foods as the USA's food-specific Atwater system, while it is more representative of energy supply from food components. The NME content of foods is readily calculable as the sum from fat (37 kJ/g), protein (13 kJ/g), available carbohydrate (16 kJ/g), fully-fermentable carbohydrate (8 kJ/g), alcohol (26 kJ/g) and other components. Obstacles to the implementation of NME appear to be subjective and minor. In conclusion, the ME standard is at best an approximate surrogate for NME, and inadequately approximates food energy values for the purpose of informing the consumer about the impact on energy balance of the energy supply for equal intake of individual foods. NME is superior to ME for nutrition labelling and other purposes.

    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      A perspective on food energy standards for nutrition labelling
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      A perspective on food energy standards for nutrition labelling
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      A perspective on food energy standards for nutrition labelling
      Available formats
      ×
Copyright
Corresponding author
Corresponding author: Dr Geoffrey Livesey, fax +44 1953 600218, email glivesey@inlogic.co.uk
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

British Journal of Nutrition
  • ISSN: 0007-1145
  • EISSN: 1475-2662
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Keywords:

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 198 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 518 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 29th May 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.