Nutrient profiling systems could be useful public health tools as a basis for front-of-package nutrition labeling, advertising regulations, or food taxes. However, their ability beyond characterization of foods to adequately characterize individual diets necessitates further investigation.
The objectives of this study were 1) to calculate a score at the individual level based on the British Food Standard Agency (FSA) food-level nutrient profiling system of each food consumed, and 2) to evaluate the validity of the resulting diet-quality score against food group consumption, nutrient intake, and sociodemographic and lifestyle variables.
A representative sample of the French population was selected from the NutriNet-Santé Study (n = 4225). Dietary data were collected through repeated 24-h dietary records. Sociodemographic and lifestyle data were self-reported. All foods consumed were characterized by their FSA nutrient profile, and the energy intake from each food consumed was used to compute FSA-derived aggregated scores at the individual level. A score of adherence to French nutritional recommendations [Programme National Nutrition Santé guideline score (PNNS-GS)] was computed as a comparison diet-quality score. Associations between food consumption, nutritional indicators, lifestyle and sociodemographic variables, and quartiles of aggregated scores were investigated using ANOVAs and linear regression models.
Participants with more favorable scores consumed higher amounts of fruits [difference Δ = 156 g/d between quartile 1 (less favorable) and quartile 4 (most favorable), P < 0.001], vegetables (Δ = 85 g/d, P < 0.001), and fish, and lower amounts of snack foods (Δ = -72 g/d, P < 0.001 for sugary snacks); they also had higher vitamin and mineral intakes and lower intakes of saturated fat. Participants with more favorable scores also had a higher adherence to nutritional recommendations measured with the PNNS-GS (Δ = 2.13 points, P < 0.001). Women, older subjects, and higher-income subjects were more likely to have more favorable scores.
Our results show adequate validity of the FSA nutrient profiling system to characterize individual diets in a French context. The NutriNet-Santé Study was registered in the European Clinical Trials Database (EudraCT) as 2013-000929-31.