Balanced hybrid nutrient density score compared to Nutri-Score and health star rating receiver operating characteristic curve analyses

Drewnowski, A., Gonzalez, T. D., & Rehm, C. D. (2022). Balanced hybrid nutrient density score compared to Nutri-Score and health star rating receiver operating characteristic curve analyses. Frontiers in Nutrition, 9. doi:10.3389/fnut.2022.867096

Abstract:

Background: Nutrient profiling (NP) models that are used to assess the nutrient density of foods can be based on a combination of key nutrients and desirable food groups. Objective: To compare the diagnostic accuracy of a new balanced hybrid nutrient density score (bHNDS) to Nutri-Score and Health Star Rating (HSR) front-of-pack systems using receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve analyses. The diet-level bHNDS was first validated against Healthy Eating Index (HEI-2015) using data from the 2017–18 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2017–18 NHANES). Food-level bHNDS values were then compared to both the Nutri-Score and HSR using ROC curve analyses. Results: The bHNDS was based on 6 nutrients to encourage (protein, fiber, calcium, iron, potassium, and vitamin D); 5 food groups to encourage (whole grains, nuts and seeds, dairy, vegetables, and fruit), and 3 nutrients (saturated fat, added sugar, and sodium) to limit. The algorithm balanced components to encourage against those to limit. Diet-level bHNDS values correlated well with HEI-2015 (r = 0.67; p < 0.001). Food-level correlations with both Nutri-Score (r = 0.60) and with HSR (r = 0.58) were significant (both p < 0.001). ROC estimates of the Area Under the Curve (AUC) showed high agreement between bHNDS values and optimal Nutri-Score and HSR ratings (>0.90 in most cases). ROC analysis identified those bHNDS cut-off points that were predictive of A-grade Nutri-Score or 5-star HSR. Those cut-off points were highly category-specific. Conclusion: The new bHNDS model showed high agreement with two front-of-pack labeling systems. Cross-model comparisons based on ROC curve analyses are the first step toward harmonization of proliferating NP methods that aim to “diagnose” high nutrient-density foods.