Reader: NuVal has no value to people who really care about food

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The NuVal system now in use at King Soopers is supposed to be "nutrition made easy," rating foods on a scale of 1 to 100. "Basically, the way scores are calculated, we look at thirty different nutrients -- both that are considered good and not so good -- to get a score," says Robert Keane, spokesman for NuVal. "To put it simply, we would divide the numerator, which is the good things, such as vitamins and fiber and things of that nature, by the bad things, such as sugar, fat, trans fat, cholesterol and things of that nature. That equation roughly gives you the NuVal score."

But some of our readers aren't buying it.

Says realfoodplease;

NuVal is a way for a any producer of crap processed food to turn their product into a healthy food. Sprinkle a vitamin pill in the box, remove any fat and presto, a nutritious food.

Tim's take:

Anything to keep the masses scared.

Cooking is hard. Shopping is hard. Don't worry about reading the label. We did it for you. Besides, there are big words back there, and numbers and percentages. Ugh....math. Let us make it easier. After all, we're a panel of twelve accomplished minds.....Not to be confused with the accomplished minds that created the food pyramid and its 6-11 daily servings of breads, cereals, rice and pasta. Their minds weren't as accomplished as ours. See, we have a patent pending algorithm.

But then there's this offer from King Soopers:

NuVal is a wonderful tool to make simpler, nutritious choices! We dietitians at King Soopers would be happy to give you a store tour or one-on-one consultation to give you more details. We're also open to providing you any nutrition information you may be seeking, whether on diabetes, heart health, whatever you choose. Our services are free! Please contact AskYourDietitian@kingsoopers.com with any questions you may have, or to set up an appointment.

There's got to be value in that!



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6 comments
Dr. David L. Katz
Dr. David L. Katz

Dear all-

1) NuVal differentiates intrinsic from added nutrients.  It is, in fact, explicitly designed to PREVENT manufacturers from getting a high score just by throwing nutrients into a vat of gloop!  Can't be done.

2) Bread is real food.  Yogurt is real food.  Meat is real food.  There is substantial nutritional variation in categories of interest to people who 'care' about food.  I am one of them.  NuVal provides relevant, evidence-based guidance in all such cases.

3) GPS is a wonderful innovation many of us are happy to use.  It does not preclude using a map, compass, or if you are so inclined- a sextant.  Similarly, NuVal in no way takes away the opportunity to read the ingredient list or nutrition facts panel; it does not preclude those who are inclined to wrestle with 'big' words.  NuVal provides a science-based summary judgment for those who want it.  Those who want to do the navigating on their own are in no way impeded.

4) Regarding the 'accomplished minds'...With all due respect, this disrespect for nutrition is entirely unfounded.  Passengers do not reasonably assume they are qualified to fly, or build, a plane.  Yet everyone assumes their opinion about nutrition is the same as expertise.  It is not.  Yes, frankly, a dozen world-leading authorities from multiple disciplines IS better than your opinion.  If you think otherwise, good luck keeping that ego fed.  And, of course, it's not just about the minds- it's also about the mission.  NuVal is entirely independent of the food industry, and entirely unencumbered by politics.  The only mission was to provide unbiased guidance to shoppers.  Minds matter; so do motives.

With best regards-

David L. Katz, MD, MPH, FACPM, FACPDirector, Yale University Prevention Research CenterPrincipal Inventor, Overall Nutritional Quality Index (ONQI) used in the NuVal Systemwww.davidkatzmd.com

Nutrition
Nutrition

Here's the deal: Not everything you need to know on a food label can be calculated by percentage points. You HAVE to read the words written in the ingredient list. High-Fructose Corn Syrup, partially hydrogenated cottonseedand/or soybean oil, maltodexterin....these are all harmful substances parading around in foods that are called non-fat, low sugar, sugar free. Not to mention that chemical sugar substances still cause a spike in your blood sugar levels and actually help make fat in your body. You can't define this stuff by using fractions and slapping on a Nu-Val sticker. Take responsibility for knowing what goes into the food you eat. If it grew up in a box, you'd better learn to read.For more info visit: http://www.scientificpsychic.c...

Mantonat
Mantonat

Thanks for the info, Doc! Does the NuVal scoring system differentiate between bread made with 4 ingredients like I can make at home (flour, water, yeast, salt) from factory-extruded bread that may be nutritionally equivalent but full of stabilizers, preservatives, colorants, and other non-nutritive chemicals? Does it differentiate between factory-processed corn-fed beef and free-range grass-fed and -finished beef? Will it tell you if your milk has growth hormones in it or if the animal fats have a healthy balance of omega-3 vs omega-6 fatty acids?

The real issue here is not that a number will help grocery shoppers, but that nutritionists are not concerned enough with the food production and distribution system that keeps most grocery stores stocked with nutritionally poor, imbalanced, or deceptive foods. The average grocery store tomato has 40% less nutrients than 30-40 years ago, but I bet those tomatoes still score pretty high on the NuVal list. Are nutritional values on tomatoes from different sources actually measured (Florida winter tomatoes vs. Colorado summer tomatoes), or is it just assumed that all fresh tomatoes have the same nutritional value?

While it is not arguable that the nutritionists and experts who developed NuVal on average have a much deeper knowledge of food nutrition than the average grocery store shopper, it is evident from your post that the prevailing attitude is that shoppers are morons who need simplified help. The real truth is that it's the food production industry that has become moronic and is systematically destroying the health of average Americans who are lured to purchasing nutritionally inadequate and even dangerous foods because of ridiculously low prices that result from mass-production methods that are bad for the food, unfair and unsafe to the workers, and inhumane to the livestock.

Whole Foods recently started a color/number system so that shoppers can identify the methods of growth and production of the meats they sell. The end result is that it is now obvious that almost none of the meat they sell falls within the range of what the average Whole Foods shopper expected. It is my hope that the one result of the NuVal score is that shoppers will realize that almost nothing you can purchase in a chain grocery store is of adequate nutritional value and that most of it will actually cause health issues if consumed regularly.

Dr. David L. Katz
Dr. David L. Katz

Patricia-

Q: Does the NuVal scoring system differentiate between bread made with 4 ingredients like I can make at home (flour, water, yeast, salt) from factory-extruded bread that may be nutritionally equivalent but full of stabilizers, preservatives, colorants, and other non-nutritive chemicals?

A: GENERALLY, YES- BECAUSE THAT BREAD YOU MAKE FROM ONLY A FEW WHOLESOME INGREDIENTS WOULD NOT BE NUTRITIONALLY EQUIVALENT TO A HIGHLY PROCESSED BREAD.  YOU STACKED THE DECK A BIT THE WAY YOU FRAMED THE QUESTION; IF TRULY 'NUTRITIONALLY EQUIVALENT' THEN THE SCORES WOULD BE THE SAME.  BUT THAT SCENARIO IS A BIT FAR-FETCHED.  IN GENERAL, THE LESS PROCESSED THE FOOD, THE HIGHER THE SCORE.

Q: Does it differentiate between factory-processed corn-fed beef and free-range grass-fed and -finished beef?

YES; GRASS-FED BEEF SCORES HIGHER

Q: Will it tell you if your milk has growth hormones in it or if the animal fats have a healthy balance of omega-3 vs omega-6 fatty acids?

HORMONES: NO, BUT YOU NEED ONLY LOOK FOR 'ORGANIC' FOR THAT.  OMEGA-3 VS. OMEGA-6- YES.

Are nutritional values on tomatoes from different sources actually measured (Florida winter tomatoes vs. Colorado summer tomatoes), or is it just assumed that all fresh tomatoes have the same nutritional value?

NO.  THE CONCERN IS VALID- BUT LET'S FACE IT: IT WILL BE A GOOD DAY WHEN AMERICAN'S DIET PROBLEM IS CHOOSING THE WRONG TOMATO!  FOR NOW, WE HAVE- FORGIVE THE PUN- BIGGER FISH TO FRY!

Q: the prevailing attitude is that shoppers are morons who need simplified help.

NO, NO MORE THAN GPS PRESUMES THE AVERAGE DRIVER IS A MORON.  IT'S JUST AN EXPERT SYSTEM THAT MAKES IS EASIER AND MORE RELIABLE TO GET THERE FROM HERE- BUT MANY FORCES CONSPIRE TO MAKE IT HARD!

Q: The real truth is that it's the food production industry that has become moronic and is systematically destroying the health of average Americans who are lured to purchasing nutritionally inadequate and even dangerous foods because of ridiculously low prices that result from mass-production methods that are bad for the food, unfair and unsafe to the workers, and inhumane to the livestock.

A: THIS IS LARGELY TRUE- EXCEPT FOR THE MORONIC PART.  IT'S ALL ABOUT MONEY, AND WHAT IT TAKES TO MAKE IT.  THAT'S NOT VERY NICE- BUT IT'S FAR FROM MORONIC.  SOME VERY SMART, VERY WELL-PAID PEOPLE ARE WORKING HARD EVERY DAY TO GET YOU TO BUY WHAT IS IN THEIR BEST INTEREST!  NUVAL IS DESIGNED TO HELP LEVEL THAT PLAYING FIELD.

Q: It is my hope that the one result of the NuVal score is that shoppers will realize that almost nothing you can purchase in a chain grocery store is of adequate nutritional value and that most of it will actually cause health issues if consumed regularly.

A: WE DIFFER ON THIS; I BELIEVE THERE ARE GOOD CHOICES.  ONE OF THE POWERS OF A SYSTEM LIKE NUVAL IS THAT BY SHIFTING DEMAND TO BETTER PRODUCTS, IT DOES, OVER TIME, HELP SHIFT THE SUPPLY TO BETTER PRODUCTS AS WELL.  THAT IS PART OF THE MISSION.  AND WE DO HOPE THAT A SHIFT OF THE 'AVERAGE SHOPPER'S' DEMAND TO BETTER PRODUCTS, LEADING TO IMPROVEMENTS IN THE SUPPLY, WILL ULTIMATELY MEAN IMPROVEMENTS THAT ENCOMPASS HEALTH, ANIMAL HUSBANDRY, AND THE ENVIRONMENT.  BUT LET'S ACKNOWLEDGE WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU TRY TO DO TOO MUCH ALL AT ONCE- YOU GET NOTHING DONE.  WE WANT TO GET SOMETHING DONE!

All best,DK

Mantonat
Mantonat

Thanks for the straight answers. Hopefully people will use the system for more than determining whether to buy Lean Cuisine or Healthy Choice frozen dinners.

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