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The Use of Proprietary Nutrient Profiling Tools in Nutrition Science and Policy

A Commentary
  • Jill Reedy
    Correspondence
    Address correspondence to: Jill Reedy, PhD, MPH, RD, National Cancer Institute, Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, 6130 Executive Boulevard, EPN 4005, MSC 7344, Bethesda MD 20892-7344
    Affiliations
    Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, Applied Research Program, Risk Factor Monitoring and Methods Branch, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland
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  • Sharon I. Kirkpatrick
    Affiliations
    Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, Applied Research Program, Risk Factor Monitoring and Methods Branch, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland
    Search for articles by this author
      In this issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Chiuve and colleagues
      • Chiuve S.E.
      • Sampson L.
      • Willett W.C.
      The association between a Nutritional Quality Index and risk of chronic disease.
      examine the associations between a nutrient profiling index, the Overall Nutritional Quality Index (ONQI), and chronic disease. The ONQI and other nutrient profiling indices are generally intended to provide simple, standardized scores indicative of the healthfulness of particular foods. In this analysis, the authors apply the ONQI as one might apply a diet quality index to diets to examine whether scores generated by the index are associated with health outcomes among two large cohorts. The authors suggest that because the ONQI “predicts lower risk of chronic disease,” it therefore may be a useful tool for policy interventions such as front-of-package labeling to inform consumer choices. However, unlike most other indices and scoring systems,
      • Drewnowski A.
      • Fulgoni V.
      Nutrient profiling of foods: creating a nutrient-rich food index.
      the ONQI is a “black box” proprietary tool. Although its creators have carefully documented the process of its development—which drew on dietary guidance, epidemiologic evidence about diet and disease, and expert opinion—it is not possible to evaluate the ONQI's scientific merit because the algorithm used to arrive at the score is not made available. As a result of this lack of transparency, the tool cannot be considered as a potential option for public policy interventions.
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      References

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