In a confusing world of colorful labels and nutritional claims, Dr. David Katz has lead an independent team of a dozen nutritionists and scientists to create a scoring system to make shopping for healthy foods easy. After two years of developing the NuVal® Nutritional Scoring System, it has now been adopted by 26 grocery store chains (including Kroger – for those Washington locals!) and more than 2,000 supermarkets nation wide, as well as many schools, hospitals, and other health facilities. The system offers a single holistic measurement of the overall quality of the food.
The project was funded by a non-profit, Yale-affiliated hospital, and the system was created without backing from food manufacturers or special interest groups (what a breath of fresh air!). A recent Harvard School of Public Health study showed that those who ate food with more favorable NuVal Scores had a lower risk of chronic disease and had a better chance of living a longer, healthier life.
So how does it work?
The system scored every food on a scale from one to 100. The higher the score, the higher the nutritional value. The creators created an algorithm that takes all the nutritional components you would find on the back of the label (30-plus nutrients and nutrition factors – the good such as protein, calcium, vitamins; and the not-so-good such as sugar, sodium, and cholesterol), and generalized into one, easy to read number.
Dr. Katz’s explains that the system is powered by the “Overall Nutritional Quality Index (ONQI®), a patent-pending algorithm for measuring the nutritional quality of foods and beverages based on the influence they have on overall dietary goals.” Nutrients with generally favorable effects on health are placed in the numerator, where higher values increase the NuVal Score. Nutrients with generally unfavorable effects on health are placed in the denominator, where higher values decrease the score. For a list of Numerator Nutrients and Denominator Nutrients, click here.
It also takes into account factors that measure the quality and density of nutrients, as well as the strength of their association with specific health conditions. An example they give is trans fat, as it has a strong association with heart disease. A “weighting coefficient” is added to trans fat, which lowers the overall score of foods in which it’s contained.
For more scores, click here.
Grocery stores across the country have adopted the system into their shelf labels, making each food easily comparable in not only price, but nutritional value as well. It has become an easy way for people to quickly determine the quality of products they are buying, so they don’t have to be constantly checking the back of each product for the label, puzzling over whether the fiber in a product outweighs the carbs.
You should note (as seen on their website “Expert Tips”):
- The best way to use the NuVal® System is to “trade up” from what you’re currently eating to a higher scoring product. Even the smallest jump in scores can have an impact on your health.
- NuVal® Scores are not dependent on food portions, as the overall nutrition quality of a food does not change with its portion size.
- Don’t automatically assume the “low fat” or “lite” version of a particular product will have a higher NuVal® Score. In some instances, these so-called “better” products have less fiber or more sugar and are actually less nutritious overall.
- There is no “magic score” to aim for when buying food. We believe a balanced diet consists of foods from all categories and can be found all over the NuVal® System scale. The NuVal Nutritional Scoring System gives you the information to make an informed decision.
Also, test your product knowledge here (sidebar)! It’s harder than you think…
About Dr. Katz
Dr. Katz is the founding director of Yale University’s Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center; President of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine; Editor-in-Chief of the journal, Childhood Obesity; Chief Science Officer for NuVal LLC; and founding director of the Integrative Medicine Center at Griffin Hospital. He is the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions such as being recognized by Greatist.com as one of the 100 most influential people in health and fitness in the world for the past 3 years. He is is recognized globally for expertise in nutrition, weight management and the prevention of chronic disease.
Nu-Val 1-100. David L. Katz, MD. Retrieved April 12, 2015 from http://www.nuval.com/.
“Biography.” David L. Katz, MD. Retrieved April 12, 2015 from http://www.davidkatzmd.com/bio.asp.
LaBuda, Denise. “Nu-Val News.” Nu-Val 1-100. Retrieved April 12, 2015 from http://www.nuval.com/News/Detail/?id=636.