What the Nutri-score is (really) worth

Every Friday, find on Le Point.fr the nutrition chronicle of Professor Boris Hansel, endocrinologist and nutritionist at Bichat Hospital in Paris.is.

Lhe Nutri-score has established itself as the reference display to help us simply choose the most healthy foods. But there are, at first glance, inconsistencies: olive oil deemed so good for our arteries classified C, ultra-processed industrial breads are Nutri-score A and a “light” cola, which some scientists believe can harm our health, are classified… Nutri-score B!

What is the Nutri-score really for and how to use it well?

It should be understood that the Nutri-score classifies products taking into account the best-known criteria: the calorie intake of the food, its content in salt and fats and in particular saturated fats; the content of fruits, vegetables, pulses and nuts as well as the sugar and fiber intake… This choice is not arbitrary. It is based on all available scientific data.

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The most important thing to understand is that the Nutri-score does not necessarily say whether or not a food should be consumed. It ranks foods in the same category from the most favorable to the least favorable from a nutritional point of view. For example: if you want to consume industrial cereals, classified from A to E in Nutri-score, you can choose what is best from a nutritional point of view.

For the oils… none are rated A, to raise awareness that oil is just fat, so it’s high in calories… But some oils have a better score than others, because the quality of the fats is considered better. For example, olive oil is classified C and it will pass B by the end of the year. Sunflower oil is classified D and will pass C soon. On the other hand, coconut oil is classified E.

And the additives?

Why do health authorities support Nutri-score? Quite simply because scientific work has shown its interest in health! For example, people who eat foods with a better Nutri-score develop fewer chronic diseases… such as cancers and cardiovascular diseases.

But there is a big question: why are additives, the presence of pesticides and the artisanal or industrial processed side of food not taken into account in the Nutri-score? This is because there are so many additives, pesticides, types of food processing that it is currently difficult to integrate them into a simple and objective score. But scientists are advancing step by step to improve the Nutri-score. For example, processed meats should rank lower, some hard cheeses should rank higher.

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In practice, here are my tips:

1) Eat as raw as possible, homemade… and with the fewest ingredients in the composition.

2) Avoid foods treated with pesticides whenever possible.

3) In the same food category, choose those with the highest Nutri-score.


Performance of the Front-of-Pack Nutrition Label Nutri-Score to Discriminate the Nutritional Quality of Foods Products: A Comparative Study across 8 European Countries.

Dréano-Trécant L, Egnell M, Hercberg S, Galan P, Soudon J, Fialon M, Touvier M, Kesse-Guyot E, Julia C.

Nutrients. 2020 May 2; 12(5):1303. doi:10.3390/nu12051303.

Association between nutritional profiles of foods underlying Nutri-Score front-of-pack labels and mortality: EPIC cohort study in 10 European countries.

Deschasaux M, Huybrechts I, Julia C, Hercberg S, Egnell M, Srour B, Kesse-Guyot E, Latino-Martel P, Biessy C, Casagrande C, Murphy N, Jenab M, Ward HA, Weiderpass E, Overvad K, Tjønneland A, Rostgaard-Hansen AL, Boutron-Ruault MC, Mancini FR, Mahamat-Saleh Y, Kühn T, Katzke V, Bergmann MM, Schulze MB, Trichopoulou A, Karakatsani A, Peppa E, Masala G, Agnoli C, De Magistris MS , Tumino R, Sacerdote C, Boer JM, Verschuren WM, van der Schouw YT, Skeie G, Braaten T, Redondo ML, Agudo A, Petrova D, Colorado-Yohar SM, Barricarte A, Amiano P, Sonestedt E, Ericson U, Otten J, Sundström B, Wareham NJ, Forouhi NG, Vineis P, Tsilidis KK, Knuppel A, Papier K, Ferrari P, Riboli E, Gunter MJ, Touvier M. BMJ. 2020 Sep 16; 370: m3173. doi: 10.1136/bmj.m3173

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