Sunday, January 25, 2009

NuValT - coming to a store near you?

NuValT is a new scoring system to rate foods on a scale of 1 to 100 using a specially created algorithm. By rating foods according to nutrients with "favorable" effects on health (Fiber, Folate, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin B12, Vitamin B6, Potassium, Calcium, Zinc, Omega-3 fatty acids, Total bioflavanoids, Total carotenoids, Magnesium, and Iron), ingredients with "unfavorable" effects on health (Saturated fat, Trans fat, Sodium, Sugar, and Cholesterol), and Protein quality, Fat quality, Glycemic load, and Energy density, which can be considered as either positive or negative factors. Who decided (and how did they reach those conclusions) that certain things are beneficial and others are not? What we "know" about food and its effects is changing all the time, what is bad for you one day may be considered good for you in a year or two or three, so how can anything be said, definitively, to be "good" or "bad"?
This scoring system is owned by Griffin Hospital in partnership with Topco LLC (website here), is overseen by the Scientific Advisory Board. The people who created this algorithm are David L. Katz, MD, MPH, ONQI Chair (see here, here); Keith Ayoob, EdD, RD; Leonard Epstein, MD (Inventor of the Traffic Light Diet); David Jenkins, MD, PhD (inventor of the glycemic index); Francine Kaufman, MD; Robert Kushner, MD; Ronald Prior, PhD; Rebecca Reeves, PhD, RD; Barbara Rolls, PhD (Author of Volumetrics); Sachiko St. Jeor, PhD, RD; and Walter Willett, MD, DrPH (mentioned here, here, here, and here).
I have a problem with any system for scoring foods in order to prevent disease (which is what this system supposedly does). This system is basically a reworking of the stoplight scoring system for foods, just taking it a few steps further (not necessarily an improvement). I do think that doctors need to be better educated about nutrition and food, and how bodies process food. But this scoring system isn't going to do that. It assumes that each food will have the same effect, to the same degree, on each and every person who eats that food, which is very much not the case. It doesn't take into account how carbs affect people with diabetes (and not everyone who has diabetes is affected in the same way by each and every food that has carbs), or how any other food-related disease is affected by certain foods (and that not every patient will react in exactly the same way to certain foods). They are trying to make this a one-size-fits-all equation, and our bodies just don't allow that, there are too many variables that cannot be controlled for, or even known about, to be taken into consideration.
From the NuValT website -
Price Chopper: Based in Schenectady, NY, the Price Chopper grocery chain has rolled out NuVal™ Scores in all of its 116 stores throughout New York, Vermont, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire.
Hy-Vee: West Des Moines, Iowa-based Hy-Vee is now featuring NuVal™ Scores in its 225-plus retail stores across seven Midwestern states.

And there are many more chains, stores, and categories to come as we aggressively rollout in stores across the U.S. throughout 2009 and 2010.

I'm thinking that this is just another way to push a "lifestyle change" (WL diet) on fat people, and will be used by doctors/insurance companies to rate how we eat and score us accordingly in order to decide if we deserve insurance coverage or treatment (add this to the electronic medical records bullshit they're trying to push and I would say we are well and truly fucked).
I also have a big problem with these people thinking that changing the way we eat or what we eat is going to prevent disease. If you have risk factors (genetics, anyone?) for a disease, that doesn't necessarily mean you will get that disease. Nor does changing how you eat mean you won't get that disease. I don't think anyone has been able to prove that what you eat will prevent heart attacks, strokes, or cancer, not to mention any of the many other diseases to which humans fall prey.
So, check out the website and the science, and see what y'all think.


  1. It's a meaningless algorithm. Cholesterol isn't bad for you, for instance. I can see cheese getting a "bad" ranking - and parents not giving their kids cheese b/c it is "bad" for them (thus losing out on necessary nutrients like protein, calcium, and B vits.)

  2. Wow. This is starting to get really annoying - I like having nutrition information available as much as the next person, but this is more like a morality scoring system. I noticed that the things that bring the score down are thus:

    fat in various forms

    In other words, if there's something in the food that makes it taste better, then its rating goes down on the morality scale. Because pleasure is bad for you.

  3. I would rather have a system that tells me what's in it instead of one that tells if someone on a low fat diet would want it or not. My own system rates food by how it will make me feel. OK, OK with limits, crappy and isn't that tasty to begin with, crappy and totally worth it once in a while, and why are we talking about this one? The more saturated fat the better in my system.

    I'm having trouble with your comment system. I can't see the captcha with Firefox and I'm having trouble with getting it to post in IE.

  4. men-in-full - that's it exactly. I don't drink milk, can't stand the taste of it, never could, even as a kid. So I get my calcium from cheese and other milk products.

    library-chair - morality scoring system would be a much better name for this, that's for sure. But it's all of a piece with everything else they're recommending for ending the "obesity epidemic" (I read that as getting rid of fat people, one way or another). If it tastes good (or has enough calories to let you function), it's bad for you, if it has no taste or minimal calories, it's good for you, never mind how your individual reacts to it.

    nonegiven - yeah, I read the nutrition labels on food packaging (and the ingredients list), and I go by how eating any particular food makes me feel (if it makes me sick/sleepy/not energetic/etc, tastes nasty, I don't buy it/eat it), no matter how healthy someone else thinks it is.
    I use Firefox, and haven't had any problems with it, not sure if that's because it's my blog or what, though. I do know that when I post a comment, I don't have the captcha, so not sure what's up with that. I don't use IE at all, ever, so don't know what the problem could be with that.
    I'll try going to back to the other comment system, where the little window pops up, and see if that helps.


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