Food is always in constant study, and now its healthy degree can now be measured. Food Compass describes nutrients using cutting-edge science to map out different characteristics that could have a positive or negative impact on health. The tool was developed over a three-year period by a team from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, Massachusetts.
The system classified sweets and desserts, sweetened sodas, and energy drinks as products that should be consumed minimally. Featuring raw fruits, other fruits, and vegetables that score highest on the Food Compass score.
“Once you get beyond ‘eat your veggies, avoid soda,’ the public is quite confused about how to identify healthier options at the grocery store, cafeteria, and restaurant,” said the dean of the Friedman School, Dariush Mozaffarian. “Consumers, legislators, and even industry are looking for simple tools to guide everyone to healthier choices.”
Mozaffarian is the author of a study published in Nature Foods that details how the Nutrient Profile System (NPS)The Food Compass aims to discriminate food safety for front package labeling, warning labels, taxes, company ratings, and more.
“Existing NPS often evaluate relatively few nutrients and ingredients, use inconsistent criteria across food categories, and have not incorporated the latest science,” the authors said in the study. “Here, we developed and validated an NPS, the Food Compass, to incorporate a broader range of characteristics, attributes, and principles of uniform food scoring.”
The authors say that Food Compass scores 54 attributes in nine health-relevant domains: nutrient ratios, vitamins, minerals, food ingredients, additives, processing, specific lipids, fiber and protein, and phytochemicals.
Later, These scores are collected and ranked with a final Food Compass score ranging from 1, the least healthy, to 100, the healthiest, covering all foods and beverages.
A score of 70 or more indicates foods that should be encouraged for consumption, a score of 69 to 31 means that food should be eaten in moderation. Whereas a score of 30 or less indicates food or drink that should be consumed only minimally.
The average score obtained by Food Compass was 43.2, with sweets and desserts scoring the lowest with an average score of around 16. The highest scoring items were vegetables and fruits, (between 69 and 74).
Sugar-sweetened sodas and energy drinks ranked 28th on the Food Compass. Fruit juices that were 100 percent fruit and vegetable scored around 67.
In terms of protein, beef got around 25, chicken and other poultry around 43, and seafood 67.
The team tested Food Compass with a US database. From more than 8,000 foods and also evaluated the items based on nutritional attributes related to chronic diseases such as obesity, cardiovascular problems, diabetes, and cancer.
Additionally, Food Compass also considers the risks of malnutrition, especially for mothers, young children, and the elderly.
Food Compass is designed in such a way that food scores can evolve over time, based on future evidence provided by areas of research such as gastrointestinal health, immune function, brain health, bone health, and physical and mental performance. The system should also be able to take into account broader aspects of food production, such as the need for sustainability.
The team hopes that in addition to helping consumers make informed choices, Food Compass can also help the food industry develop healthier products, as well as improve food labeling and inform agricultural policy.
“With its publicly available scoring algorithm, Food Compass can provide a nuanced approach to promoting healthy food choices, helping to guide consumer behavior, nutrition policy, scientific research, food industry practices, and food decisions. social base investment” said the author and researcher at the University of Thessaly, Renata Micha, who was a member of the Friedman School faculty when Food Compass was being developed.