World Health Day: Using the new nutriRECIPE index to comprehensively assess the health quality of foods

On World Health Day on 7 April, researchers from the Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Ilmenau University of Technology and the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg present the nutriRECIPE index - a new approach to evaluate the health quality of food. Using ready-to-eat salads as an example, they were able to show that the new index is much more detailed than the well-known Nutri-Score. The study was conducted within the framework of the BMBF-funded Competence Cluster for Nutrition and Cardiovascular Health (nutriCARD) and the "Back to the roots" project funded by the Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt (DBU) and is published in the journal "Foods".

Salads are very popular with health-conscious consumers and are considered by many to be the epitome of a healthy diet. The current study, in which almost 300 salads from German supermarkets were analysed, shows that this perception is only partially true for ready-to-eat salads from the supermarket, such as cabbage, meat or pasta salads: Depending on the type and quantity of ingredients used and the method of preparation, many of the ready-made salads score only moderately or even poorly in terms of health.

For their analysis, the scientists of the nutriCARD cluster applied the new nutriRECIPE index and compared the results with the Nutri-Score already established in Germany. "While the Nutri-Score only takes seven nutrient criteria into account, the calculation of the nutriRECIPE includes 20 criteria," says Laura Schlarbaum from the University of Jena, the lead author of the study. For the nutriRECIPE, the underlying recipe is determined by means of an algorithm developed at the TU Ilmenau, which allows conclusions to be drawn about other nutrients. Compared to the Nutri-Score, the results determined in this way are more detailed and allow for a more precise assessment and differentiation of various pre-prepared foods.

The assessment differences in the presented study became particularly clear in the product group of potato salads: While all 31 potato salads examined received a C rating in the Nutri-Score, these varied between B and D in the nutriRECIPE. "So some salads were better, others worse than the average," says Schlarbaum.

The advantage of the nutriRECIPE is that it clarifies the result not only by means of a label letter from A-E and five colours, but also by means of a percentage number between 0 and 100, and even over 100 in the case of nutritionally very high-quality foods. "Consumers can thus better distinguish between individual items within a product group, but also in comparison to other product groups," summarises Dr. Toni Meier from the University of Halle-Wittenberg. He is a co-developer of the nutriRECIPE. In a further point, adds Prof. Dr. Stefan Lorkowski from the University of Jena, the nutriRECIPE does not weight the nutrients taken into account generally, but on the basis of the nutrient supply of the population. "Nutrients for which there is a major deficiency, e.g. vitamin D, iodine or dietary fibre, are weighted more heavily than nutrients for which there is no deficiency," says Lorkowski, the coordinator of the nutriCARD competence cluster.


Background "nutriCARD"

The Competence Cluster for Nutrition and Cardiovascular Health (nutriCARD) bundles the activities in the field of basic and applied nutrition research of the universities of Jena, Leipzig and Halle-Wittenberg, which cooperate in the Central German University Alliance. The aim is to develop efficient concepts and solutions for the sustainable prevention of nutrition-related diseases and to communicate these to the population through nutrition communication and education.



Schlarbaum L, Forner F, Bohn K, Amberg M, Mäder P, Lorkowski S, Meier T (2022): Nutritional assessment of ready-to-eat salads in German supermarkets: comparison of the nutriRECIPE-Index and the Nutri-Score. In: Foods, MDPI Basel, DOI: 10.3390/foods11244011


Link to the press release of the University Jena



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