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.
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.
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.
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).
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