Nutrient density

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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 (see Nutritional rating systems).

Definition and usage[edit]

According to the World Health Organization, nutrient profiling[1] classifies and/or ranks foods by their nutritional composition in order to promote human (and/or animal) health and to prevent disease.[2] 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.

Nutrient-dense foods such as fruits and vegetables are the opposite of energy-dense food (also called "empty calorie" food), such as alcohol and foods high in added sugar or processed cereals. [3] [4] Beyond its use to distinguish different types of food from each other, nutrient density allows comparison to be made for different examples or samples of the same kind of food. Nutrient density is correlated with soil quality and mineralization levels of the soil, although the relationship is complex and incorporates other dimensions.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reported in 2013 that:

Several indicators of nutrient quality have been summarized by the Academy.[5] [6]

The Nutrient Rich Food Index has been developed by a research coalition involving food and nutrition practitioners.[7] 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.[8]

International standards[edit]

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.[9]

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.[10]

The World Health Organization reviews scientific and operational issues related to human nutrition, specifically when developing world populations are impacted.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Nutrient Profiling: Report of a WHO/IASO Technical Meeting, London, United Kingdom, 4-6 October 2010, accessed 10/15/2014.
  2. ^ Nutrient Profiling, accessed 10/15/2014
  3. ^ Hunter, J. G., Cason, K. L., Nutrient Density, Clemson University, 2006(November), accessed 10/15/2014. Nutrient density is defined as "a measure of the nutrients provided per calorie of food, or the ratio of nutrients to calories (energy)."
  4. ^ Darmon, N., Darmon, M., Maillot, M., Drewnowski, A., A Nutrient Density Standard for Vegetables and Fruits: Nutrients per Calorie and Nutrients per Unit Cost, Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 105(12),2005 (December), 1881–1887, DOI: 10.1016/j.jada.2005.09.005, accessed 10/15/2014
  5. ^ Drewnowski, A., Defining nutrient density: Development and validation of the nutrient rich foods index. J Am Coll Nutr. 2009; 28(suppl 4):421S-426S.
  6. ^ Drewnowski, A., The Nutrient Rich Foods Index helps to identify healthy, affordable food, Am J Clin Nutr, April 2010, 91(4), 1095S-1101S, accessed 10/15/2014. First published February 24, 2010, doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2010.28450D
  7. ^ Trichterborn J, Harzer G, Kunz C. Nutrient profiling and food label claims: Evaluation of dairy products in three major European countries. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2011;65(9): 1032-1038.
  8. ^ Position Paper, Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2013(February), 113(2), 307-317. Position Paper adopted by the House of Delegates Leadership Team on September 13, 2001; June 30, 2005; and August 31, 2010. 2212-2672/$36.00 doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2012.12.013, accessed 10/15/2014.
  9. ^ FSANZ Board, Nutrient Profiling Scoring Calculator, accessed 10/15/2014
  10. ^ Rayner, M., Scarborough, P., Lobtein, P., The UK Ofcom Nutrient Profiling Model, October 2009, accessed 10/15/2014
  11. ^ World Health Organization, Nutrient profiling: report of a technical meeting, London, United Kingdom, 4-6 October 2010, 20 pages, Publication date: 2011, ISBN 978 92 4 150220 7, accessed 10/15/2014, downloadable as a PDF from

External References[edit]