System Developed to Rank Order Foods on Overall Nutritional Quality
nutrition scientists from throughout North America have developed what
is believed to be the world's most sophisticated system to rank order
foods on the basis of overall nutritional quality.
system, called the 'Overall Nutritional Quality Index,' or 'ONQI' for
short, uses a simple scoring method designed to be posted on
supermarket shelves and on food product packaging to enable consumers
to select more nutritious and healthy foods
is the work of a team of 12 leading nutrition experts from the United
States and Canada, over a period of roughly two years. The group was
convened, and the effort directed, by Dr. David L. Katz, co-founder and
director of the CDC funded, Yale University - Griffin Hospital
Prevention Research Center, and a nationally recognized authority in
nutrition and chronic disease prevention. The project was fully
supported independent of all commercial interests by Griffin Hospital,
a non-profit community hospital in Derby, CT, where the Prevention
Research Center is housed.
team of consulting experts involved in developing the ONQI includes
past presidents of the American Dietetic Association and the American
Diabetes Association; the current president of the American Cancer
Society; and top academic experts in topics from nutritional
biochemistry, childhood diabetes and obesity, to epidemiology, among
them the inventor of the glycemic index, and the originator of the
traffic light diet guidance system.
ONQI is designed to generate a single score on a scale of 1 to 100
representing overall nutritional quality, for any food or recipe.
Approximately 30 nutrients, both those with favorable health effects
such as fiber, and those with unfavorable health effects such as added
sugar, are included in the sophisticated ONQI formula, which also
includes a variety of weighting coefficients that reflect the
importance of various nutrients to health, and their associations
withspecific health outcomes.
question, when you look at the details of the ONQI, it's complex" said
Dr. Katz. "The sophistication of the formula we devised sets it apart
from other work on this issue. But the ONQI is a perfectly simple,
turnkey system to use. The complexity powers it, just like a rather
complex engine powers the cars most of us drive quite easily. Just like
with that car, when it comes to using the ONQI, you can basically turn
the key and go. "
the rising toll of nutrition-related health conditions in the U.S., in
particular obesity, it is important to provide consumers with a simple
standard regarding food choices that is as reliable as it is easy to
understand. The ONQI is a labeling system that can help everyone make
healthier choices in every food category quickly and easily," said Dr.
Walter Willett, a member of the ONQI expert panel, and Professor of
Epidemiology and Nutrition, and chair of the Department of Nutrition at
the Harvard School of Public Health.
ONQI is supported by a large volume of independent research. It
directly empowers people to make better choices, and yet avoids the
'good food/bad food' label that many in both nutrition circles and the
food industry object to," observed Dr. Rebecca Reeves, past president
of the American Dietetic Association. "This system certainly can help
consumers make healthier choices within any food category. It's
important that it is the product of scientists working independently of
any commercial interest. It is a source people can really trust."
ONQI is primarily intended to guide choices within a given food
category, by identifying, for example, which bread, or breakfast
cereal, or pasta sauce is the most nutritious as compared to other,
similar products. But the large amount of nutrition information entered
into the formula makes the ONQI universal, so it can compare the
nutritional quality of foods across categories as well.
can improve their diets, and their health, both by changing the
categories of foods they eat most - for example, by eating more fruits
and vegetables - and by making better choices within a given category,
including snack items and desserts. The ONQI is designed to do both.
You can, in fact, compare apples to oranges (oranges win), or apples to
marshmallows," Dr. Katz noted. But of more practical value you can
compare one box of kid's breakfast cereal to another, cut right past
all the marketing hype, and get to the truth at a glance."
Hospital has partnered with Topco Associates to make the ONQI available
through thousands of retail grocery stores across the nation beginning
in the second-half of 2008. The ONQI will be launched in supermarkets
as well as on the Internet in collaboration with one or more of the
premier providers of health content on the World Wide Web.
have been developed for an on-line system that will allow consumers to
obtain the nutritional score and rank for virtually any food, to
generate shopping lists, to access and make-over recipes, and to build
and entire meal plan that incorporates personal preferences and health
conditions, and is optimized for health.
with Topco and its member companies will allow us to bring the ONQI to
millions of consumers nationwide," said Patrick Charmel, president and
chief executive officer, Griffin Hospital. "Together, we will help
Americans make better food choices."
consumers are often overwhelmed with the number of choices they have in
the supermarket, and the number of competing claims about health and
nutrition. The ONQI is an easy to use, transparent and credible system
to help them make healthy food choices. However, it will only work if
retailers and manufacturers elect to adopt a standardized system. If
the food industry gets behind a uniform labeling approach and adopts
consistent standards, it will make a world of difference for every
consumer." observed Dr. Keith Ayoob, a nutrition expert at the Albert
Einstein Medical College.
For more information on the Overall Nutritional Quality Index, visit www.onqi.com.