Nutrient density identifies the proportion of nutrients in foods, with terms such as nutrient rich and micronutrient dense referring to similar properties. Several different national and international standards have been developed and are in use.
Definition and usage
According to the World Health Organization, nutrient profiling classifies and/or ranks foods by their nutritional composition in order to promote human (and/or animal) health and to prevent disease. Ranking by nutrient density is one such nutrient profiling strategy. Ordering foods by nutrient density is a statistical method of comparing foods by the proportion of nutrients in foods. Some such comparisons can be the glycemic index and the Overall Nutritional Quality Index.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reported in 2013 that:
The Nutrient Rich Food Index has been developed by a research coalition involving food and nutrition practitioners. This index uses nutrient profiles that have been validated against accepted measures of a healthy diet, such as the Healthy Eating Index created by the USDA.
Impact of soil and plant genetics
Nutrient density is also affected by cultivar genetics and growing conditions. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the United States National Institute of Food and Agriculture funded research in 2009 by the University of Massachusetts, which summarized:
Literature on food composition demonstrates that the mineral nutrient density of vegetables has fallen in the past 50 years. This decline is associated with declines in soil fertility and with the genetics of plant cultivars that accumulate yield at higher rates than they accumulate mineral nutrients. Research is needed to develop systems of food crop production that will supply adequate mineral nutrition to people directly through crop-derived foods.
The Nutrient Profiling Scoring Calculator (NPSC) in Australia and New Zealand is a calculator for determining whether health claims can be made for a food by its reference to the Nutrient Profiling Scoring Criterion (NPSC). It is defined by the FSANZ Board, which operates under the FSANZ Act.
The United Kingdom Ofcom nutrient profiling model provides "a single score for any given food product, based on calculating the number of points for ‘negative’ nutrients which can be offset by points for ‘positive’ nutrients." A 2007 UK-commissioned review of nutrient profiling models commissioned by the UK Food Standards Agency identified over 40 different schemes.
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