Food: can we trust the Nutri-Score to eat better?

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At a glance, this five-color logo can help you decode the nutritional values ​​of a food. Launched in 2017, the Nutri-Score aims to provide information on the nutritional quality of a product. In other words, it provides a summary of the nutritional information of a food, without having to decipher the painting of its composition, often obscure. “He scores foods according to the rate of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ fats, sugar, salt or the amount of fiber”, explains Sophie Janvier, nutritionist in Paris. “Based on this information, a rating, more or less favorable ranging from A to E, will be assigned to the food.”

With this tool, it is therefore “easier” to compare products from the same department, from different brands or consumed on the same occasion. “It’s relatively useful for not having to look at the small ‘nutritional value’ square which is not always easy to understand if you are not informed”, adds the nutritionist. Nevertheless, the Nutri-Score remains optional. “Manufacturers choose whether or not to affix it to their products,” says Sophie Janvier.

According to the French Food and Public Health Observatory, more than one in two French people have changed their consumption habits since the creation of Nutri-Score. In addition, this tool has been adopted by six other European countries: Germany, Belgium, Spain, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland. However, according to Sophie Janvier, you do not necessarily have to turn to foods rated A or B. “The Nutri-Score does not take into account how a food is made, and more specifically the degree of processing of the ingredients that make up this food“, she enlightens. “Now, for example, there is a difference between wheat and maltodextrin. Made from wheat, the maltodextrin will have lost all of its fiber and will be nutritionally poor.” Gold, we can find foods rated A or B that contain maltodextrin and many other ingredients that have undergone industrial transformations. “They can also include additives,” notes Sophie Janvier.

Is the Nutri-score reliable?

As for the reliability of this Nutri-Score, “I tend to say that it’s better than nothing, because it sheds light on the nutritional quality of the product”, testifies the nutritionist. But this opinion is not that of the detractors of the logo, who explain thatthe first thing to consider is how the product was made. “We should try to improve the Nutri-Score so that it takes into account the issue of ultra-processed ingredients and additives,” says Sophie Janvier. “For example, natural and added sugars should not be on the same plane, because they do not have the same metabolic effect. Pound for pound, a dried fig has more sugar than a soda, but it’s natural sugar. But in the end, the fig will be much healthier than the soda”.

“The Nutri-Score tends to consider that as soon as a food contains saturated fatty acids, the score must drop”

In the same spirit, considered too fatty by the Nutri-Score, certain local products, such as cheese, do not obtain a good grade. “They contain so-called ‘saturated’ fats, generally considered to be bad fats”, explains Sophie Janvier. “But at the same time, these are a certain type of fatty acids of dairy origin, whose scientific studies show that they are not not really problematic for health if not abused”. In addition, “the cheeses contain natural probiotics, i.e. good bacteria for gut healthand that, the NutriScore does not take into account”.

Ultimately, “the Nutri-Score tends to consider that as soon as a food contains saturated fatty acids, the score must drop”, she indicates. “However, it is difficult to compare a food that naturally contains these fats and a product to which low-quality fats have been deliberately added, such as palm oil or, worse, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats. industrial origin”. Moreover, for the nutritionist, the fact that the best score attributed to an olive or rapeseed oil is C remains problematic. “It has its justification, as it’s fat and calorie-dense, but it’s still the best in fatty acids.”

Diet: how to better choose your diet?

Ideally, prefer raw foods as much as possible, without packaging. However, there are exceptions. “Frozen plain vegetables are certainly packaged, but they remain raw foods which also benefit from a Nutri-Score A”, points out the nutritionist. Another good reflex, pay attention to the list of ingredients. “If there are words on the list that you don’t understand or that you don’t have in our closet, vigilance. This means that you are probably dealing with an ultra-processed product”, warns Sophie Janvier.

Moreover, it seems that revisions are in preparation. “We are talking about adding a black square, in addition to the Nutri-Score, which would indicate whether the product is ultra-processed. But that might not be enoughbecause according to the nutritionist, the degree of processing is the most important criterion. Indeed, many epidemiological studies have shown that the first risk factor in food, all chronic diseases combined, was the industrial side of food. “That’s what we call the matrix effect”, indicates the nutritionist. After undergoing industrial transformations, Ifood loses somehow “its structure”, which impoverishes its quality nutritional. For Sophie Janvier, you have to keep in mind that you have to “eat as much as possible, simple, raw foods that you can cook.” Moreover, “we must not forget that the food balance is not played on a food or even a day“, she reassures.

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