Fun With New Nutritional Index: NuVal and ONQI

August 26, 2008

Over the next year, you’ll start to see a new “number” in your grocery stores — the “Overall Nutritional Quality Index” or “ONQI” (but likely to be marketed under the trademark, “NuVal”).  Developed by a bunch of nutritionists, the ONQI uses a complex algorithm to establish a single score — on a 1-100 scale, for all foods and recipes.  The algorithm takes into account the following factors: fiber; folate; vitamins A, C, D, E, B12, B6; potassium; calcium; zinc; omega 3 fatty acids; bioflavanoids; carotenoids; magnesium; iron; saturated fat; trans fat; sodium; sugar; cholesterol; fat quality; protein quality; energy density and glycemic load.

Sure, this is a gimmick, but it has some laudable objectives.  The ONQI strives to define the nutritional quality of a food based on its influence on overall dietary goals.

But what’s fun about the ONQI is when you start comparing foods to each other.  For example, you CAN now compare apples to oranges (and oranges win, 100 to 96).  Bacon, oh, how I love thee, is a 2.  A two?  WTF?  That’s only one more than taffy or a regular popsicle.  Dark chocolate is a 10, one better than white bread.  Unfortunately, a comprehensive list isn’t available yet.  I’ve found this list on the ONQI website and another in the September edition of National Geographic that is not online.

Of course, having a simple scoring system will create lots of debate.  The low-carb afficianados are already screaming mad that unbuttered, unsalted popcorn receives a 69 and skinless, boneless (and tasteless?) chicken breasts get a 39.  Heh.

And the fact that we need an index to teach people that broccoli is better for you than white bread is pretty sad, when you get right down to it.  Funny, too.