NuVal: Low-Fat Nonsense Made Easy

      51 Comments on NuVal: Low-Fat Nonsense Made Easy

An organization called NuVal has come up with a simplified system for telling us which foods we should eat.  Instead of continuing to strain our brains by counting grams of fat, carbohydrates, sugar, fiber, and protein, we can now just read the NuVal score, which ranges from 1 to 100.  Check it out:

After watching the video, I couldn’t quite figure how the NuVal people assign scores to foods, so I went to their web site for the answer.

The NuVal(tm) Nutritional Scoring System is powered by the Overall Nutritional Quality Index (ONQI(tm)), a patent-pending algorithm for measuring the nutritional quality of foods and beverages based on the influence they have on overall dietary goals.

That’s a great start.  I’ve always believed choosing quality foods requires at least one algorithm and a patent or two.  As you probably know, archeologists have found several algorithms etched into the walls alongside Paleolithic cave paintings.  There’s even a theory that Neanderthals died out because their primitive tools were incapable of producing the symbol for division.

Developed by a team of leading nutrition, public health, and medical experts, the ONQI algorithm uses the Institute of Medicine’s Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs – quantitative reference values for recommended intakes of nutrients) and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (advice from the Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture about how good dietary habits can promote health and reduce risk for major chronic diseases) to quantify the presence of more than 30 nutrients – including vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants; sugar, salt, trans fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol.

So they’re using the USDA’s dietary guidelines to create the algorithm.  That would explain some of the foods that receive a high NuVal score:

Oranges – 100
Pineapples – 99
Post Shredded Wheat ‘N Bran – 91
Bananas – 91
Organic Valley 1% Milk – 81
Ryvita Rye & Oat Bran Crispbread – 87
Silk Soymilk Light – 82
Silk Soy Milk Chocolate – 68

… as well as some foods that received low scores:

Chicken Breast (boneless) – 39
Pork Tenderloin – 35
Turkey Breast – 31
Ground Sirloin (Beef 90/10) – 30
Ham – 27
Coconuts (husked) – 24

But I figured there must be more to a patent-pending algorithm than USDA recommendations, so I called the NuVal people and asked for an interview.  One of them agreed to speak to me on the condition that I wouldn’t reveal his name.

Fat Head:  Back in the 1990s, the FDA mandated a standardized food label that promotes a high-carb, low-fat diet, and since then we’ve gotten fatter.  Why did you decide American consumers need a simplified version of the same advice?

NuVal:  The FDA and USDA did a pretty good job of helping millions of people to become obese and diabetic, and we applaud their efforts.  But if you look at the statistics from recent years, rates of obesity and Type 2 diabetes are starting to level off somewhat.  We concluded that the government’s plan to fatten up the population has run into an unforeseen barrier.

Fat Head:  And what’s that?

NuVal:  Mathematical illiteracy.  As often happens with the federal government, one branch didn’t know what the other was up to.  So while the FDA and USDA were working to make people fatter by offering detailed nutrition advice, the Department of Education was busy making sure millions of Americans can’t do math.

Fat Head:  I’m not sure I see how that —

NuVal:  Let me give you an example.  We’ve been telling people to get at least 60 percent of their calories from carbohydrates, because we know that will produce runaway blood sugar for a whole lot of them, right?

Fat Head:  Right.

NuVal:  Okay, so you’re looking at a food label, and it says 60 carbohydrates, 30 grams of fat, and 10 grams of protein.  I bet you think that means 60 percent of the calories come from carbohydrates.

Fat Head:  No, because fat has more than twice as many calories per gram than carbohydrates.  So it’s more like 43 percent carbohydrates.

NuVal:  How did you … ?  Never mind.  The point is, a lot of people aren’t eating enough carbohydrates to jack up their blood sugar because they’re lousy at math.  Plus that whole “gram” thing doesn’t make sense to anyone except the drug addicts, and they eat plenty of carbohydrates already.  We needed something simple.

Fat Head:  I see.  So that’s why it’s called “A Food System for Dummies” on your web site.

NuVal:  Exactly.  Now people can just choose foods that rank high on the NuVal scale and keep their blood sugar jacked up all the time, without all that math.

Fat Head:  But I noticed you also give sugary foods a low score and green vegetables a high score.  That would seem to undermine your goal of turning more people into diabetics.

NuVal:  True, but we also discourage people from eating anything with adequate amounts of animal protein or fat, so we know they’ll be hungry and fill up on carbohydrates eventually.  Besides, the system has to look credible when it comes to vegetables or no one will use it.

Fat Head:  Let’s talk about that scoring system a bit.  In your algorithm, you give foods a high score for certain nutrients, but then you divide by what you consider bad nutrients:  trans fat, sugar, sodium, saturated fat and cholesterol.

NuVal:  It’s complicated, but yes, that’s basically it.

Fat Head:  That’s where I’m getting confused.  Trans fat and saturated fat have different chemical structures and different effects in the body.  Trans fats lower HDL, while saturated fat raises it.  Trans fats weaken cells, while saturated fats make them stronger.  Recent studies show zero association between saturated fat and heart disease.  So how did saturated fat become what you call a denominator?

NuVal:  We consider them biochemically equivalent because our algorithm showed that if you take all the letters that are common to both trans fat and saturated fat, you can create a long list of the same words.

Fat Head:  But that doesn’t seem like a good way to–

NuVal:  Fat Rats, Fast Rat, Fat Arts, Fat Star, Star Aft, and my favorite, Sat Fart.

Fat Head:  I see.  So biochemically, you’d consider Tom Naughton the equivalent of a Math Nut Goon.

NuVal:  Yes.  Or a Homo Gnat Nut.

Fat Head:  I also don’t see why cholesterol and sodium are denominators.  Your site says the inputs for the algorithm are based on broad scientific research.  Can you actually point to any research that proves cholesterol and sodium are bad for us?

NuVal:  We conducted an exhaustive review of the literature and found that in nearly every case, the federal government said cholesterol and sodium are bad.

Fat Head:  Your algorithm is also supposed to take the glycemic index into account, according to your web site.  I was pleased to see white bread receive a low score, for example.  And yet Silk Chocolate Soy Milk received a score of 68, despite containing nearly as much sugar per cup as Coca-Cola.  What’s that about?

NuVal:  Boobs.

Fat Head:  Excuse me?!

NuVal:  We love boobs.  The isoflavones in soy are chemically similar to estrogen, so if we can get kids drinking a lot more soy milk, we won’t have to wait until they’re teenagers to see some boobs.

Fat Head:  But …you realize that can happen to the boys too, right?

NuVal:  I consider myself very open-minded.

Fat Head:  Well, as someone who developed boobs as a boy, I don’t think that’s healthy, physically or mentally, unless you enjoy having other boys call you names.

NuVal:  Like “Homo Gnat Nut”?

Fat Head:  No, but you’re in the ballpark.  The point is, why the heck would you give anything made out of soy a high score?  How is soy milk a healthier option than a slice of ham or a chicken breast?

NuVal:  Don’t say breast.  It makes me think of b-

Fat Head:  Thank you for your time.

So there you have it:  A simple system to help people choose a low-fat, high-carb diet based on processed grains and soy, while limiting perfectly natural proteins and fats.  Obesity, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and premature puberty made easy.

The only bright spot is that NuVal is a commercial enterprise, so if they fail, they’ll probably go away.  If they were a government health agency, failure would be an excuse to double their budget.


51 thoughts on “NuVal: Low-Fat Nonsense Made Easy

  1. arlojeremy

    “No more scouring the labels!”

    How depressing.

    Just put your heads in the sand people and eat what we tell you to eat.

    What blows my mind is that it’s been known for an incredibly long time that dietary cholesterol has no negative effects and yet it’s still included. And as you basically mentioned, anyone up to date on the literature would also see that saturated fat isn’t detrimental either.

    The inventor of this proposal must be too busy with book signings to stay on top of research… or common sense.

    Unfortunately, Dr. Katz, like Dr. Oz, has quite a following.

  2. Alexia

    I just filled out a survey about NuVal for my local grocery store chain. I told them it sucked and wasn’t helpful at all LOL

    Good move. I can’t believe the grocery stores would want to buy into it.

  3. Lovely Lentilla

    Nu Val? Sounds a lot like Newspeak…

    “The basic idea behind Newspeak is to remove all shades of meaning from language, leaving simple dichotomies (pleasure and pain, happiness and sadness, goodthink and crimethink) which reinforce the total dominance of the State.”

    (From Wiki:

    “A Food System for Dummies”? Well, they got that right.

    The real dummies will be the ones who follow it.

  4. Natalie

    The thing I noticed throughout the entire video was they constantly, in various, oblique ways, called the consumer stupid.

    We’re confused, unsure, find math hard (Well, I am a girl…), hate having to make independent decisions, need a paternal system to look after us, are desperate to have someone step in and make all the hard decisions for us *languid hand to forehead*

    Personally, I find that my brain functions perfectly well – I don’t know about anyone else. Actually, I do know about everyone else – I’m just not convinced that Americans are a race of mouthbreathers. I am capable of reading, researching, learning, independent thought and determing on what and where I spend my money and I’m pretty damn sure Americans – yes, even the poor ones! – can do the same. The only thing stupid about consumers of any kind is they believe these systems are trying to look out for them. HA!

    And a score of 24 for a (expletive deleted) coconut??

    They’re kidding, right?

    *shrugs, and eats coconut oil directly off the spoon*

    Haven’t you heard that coconuts are high in artery-clogging saturated fat? Clearly, soy milk is much better for you.

  5. Rahul

    LOL the scary thing is that this might be the actual response if u spoke to a real associate of this Nuval company as they don’t seem to have looked at any serious research for this new system. I’m pretty sure they will be some how funded by the government for their valiant efforts into improving the lazy, confused dummies who just can’t seem to get their health back in order.
    P.S: That doctor David says in that video says “…we got the best scientists to use all the best science to find a single holistic system blah-blah…” firstly i bet all those best scientists were funded by grants given by the government. Secondly what does “..all the best science..” mean? I thought there wasn’t a choice, I never knew science had a rating system lol I just thought it was facts based on evidence and proof lol. We don’t say the evolution science is the best science and the creationism science is the 3rd or 4th best science lol because creationism isn’t based on science and by the looks of it neither is this NUVAL system lol

    Any algorithm that puts trans fats and saturated fats in the same category isn’t based on anything like objective science.

  6. mezzo

    NuVal? Whatever next? Maybe something like PuVal? The higher the score, the more likely you are to puke after eating those cals. Or how about ClueVal? The more you eat of those foods, the more your brain will shrink?

    A whole line of related trademarks … brilliant idea. BuVal — the higher the rating, the scarier it is … SuVal — the higher the rating, the more likely you’ll hurt yourself and sue the manufacturer … etc.

  7. Lynnsey

    This has all the markings of what happened in the movie “Terminator”-Nuval could become the next Skynet if we’re not careful. Maybe I’m over reacting, but watching that Youtube video with all that cheesy background music made me think of Skynet. I really hope this doesn’t take off, it gives me the creeps, and I don’t feel right about it. For the obvious reasons you wrote above, and for the Skynet like reasons.

    I love your blog, Tom. Any chance we can get posts more than twice a week? 🙂

    I’m seeing another sequel … the humans huddling in secret, grilling meats over a fire … then a Terminator shows up and starts shooting them with an orange-launcher.

    Twice per week as long as I’m still working for a living.

  8. Dan

    How did the human race survive all these years???

    Like BMI, this is just more technobabble, technobabble desiged to get people to eat the way the government wants them to. It’s all based on theory and, as far as I can tell, has never been put to the test as to whether following this system actually improves health. Just another experiement on the entire population.

    Interesting that nutrionally void foods such as whole grain cereals get a high score. This is not because they have a large amout of micronutrients, but because they are low in sat fat & cholesterol. According to basic math, the small denominator means a higher number, despite the size of the numerator.

    Just like the Heart Association’s evaluations. No fat? It’s perfect!

  9. SnowDog

    I find the NuVal score to be quite helpful when used in reverse!

    That would almost work … but it would put Captain Crunch high on your list. At least they recognized sugar is bad.

  10. Elle

    Between the logo and the lady’s voice and the pacing of her voice I’m reminded of Umbrella Corp from Resident Evil. As Umbrella turned the populace into a bunch of zombies that’s probably not a bad comparison.

    I wonder what brains are on the NuVal scale.

    Also – “thought leaders.” Seriously, they’re calling their people “thought leaders” with a straight face?

    I thought the pace of the video was quite slow, then I realized they believe most of us are quite slow as well.

  11. SnowDog

    I notice that oranges score 100 on this system. That implies that oranges supply all of our nutritional needs.

    I wonder why the orange-only diet hasn’t caught on?

    Apparently, we could live on organges and Silk soymilk.

  12. Amy Dungan

    I’m so glad they are making this easy for us. Reading is hard. Math is hard. Why should I put even any minor effort into making informed choices when I can just be a drone and let someone else do it for me. This is great. And I bet they don’t even want any money for doing this. They just want people to be healthy, right? That’s why they spent two years developing algorithms based on old faulty junk science. Now I’m just gonna sit back and wait for that lottery ticket to make me rich too! Yes siree… just gonna sit back here and let everyone else take charge of my health, because it ALWAYS ends well when you do that.

    That was the first thing I checked, since they were bragging about not taking money from food companies. They license the system to grocery stores … who would be fools to spend the money.

  13. kilton

    Wow, the president of NuVal is overweight. What a shocker!

    Probably attended the Kelly Brownell school of weight management.

  14. Holly

    “Just like the Heart Association’s evaluations. No fat? It’s perfect!”

    The entire time I thought that too. Just another system for profit. I’m glad I’m teaching my son about how to live healthy.

    You and I can teach our kids what real food is about. I feel sorry for children of the parents who believe this nonsense.

  15. Pål Jåbekk

    “As you probably know, archeologists have found several algorithms etched into the walls alongside Paleolithic cave paintings.”

    This is great writing Tom. I really hope that NuVal (or anything like it) doesn’t spread to across the pond. This is way too advanced for us.

    Let’s hope NuVal dies a quick death here.

  16. Zach

    Holy Sat Fart! It’s so funny because I was not sure whether this is satire or not. Ah, it is satire… ah, he he, ah, right?

    Unfortunately, you don’t have to stretch the truth too far with these people to reach the point of ridiculousness.

  17. Markus

    Great post,
    gotta remember though not to eat or drink whilre reading your blog.
    Otherwise I’ll someday choke to death or snort some bacon & eggs through my nose.

    In Germany there is some talk about a similar thing a sort of traffic light on foods which is red if a particular item has more than 5g of sat fat in it At least its also red if there is more than 12.5g of sugar however not the kind found in pasta e.g. “complex carbohydrathes” or bread etc because thats not sugar

    If I can make you pass food through your nose, I know it’s a good post.

  18. Thom Brogan

    Not only is NuVal condescending, but its insistence that consumers heed the ONQI is downright racist!

    Many of the grand plans to help us eat better are based on the assumption that people are stupid. This is no exception.

  19. RonnieC

    Wow, misinformation just keeps spreading like wildfire. This is just what obese and potentially diabetic people need, a “team of leading nutrition, public health, and medical experts” telling them it’s ok to avoid meat and fats while loading up on empty carbohydrates. Meanwhile, they can continue to avoid educating themselves and escalate the laziness that has contributed to their health issues in the first place! Excellent marketing job Nuval, go ahead and ride that train. It upsets me, but I suppose that for every healthy, nutritionally educated person, there is another that refuses to make the changes (not always the easiest) necessary to live healthy and happy. Great post!

    Yup, I’d rather see potential diabetics confused than given a simple “eat your carbs” message.

  20. Dave C.

    “We conducted an exhaustive review of the literature and found that in nearly every case, the federal government said cholesterol and sodium are bad.”

    LOL, funny but true.

    Or sad but true.

  21. Debbie

    I almost wish my supermarket was looking into it, and gave me a survey to take! Boy I would love to take it. I have to run over there anyway in about an hour, I have to see if they are being assimilated.

    I believe it will be every bit as effective as the FDA’s labels.

  22. Paul

    This sounds like a major conspiracy to me. Implements of the food pyramid in the 1990’s –> obesity/ type II diabetes epidemic in 2000 –> government run health care in 2010 = big money for ___________ (fill in the blank here).

  23. MikeC

    A few questions…

    Who pays for the label to be put on the food?
    Why would someone want the label on their product if has a low score?
    What would it take to create “our” own version and compete with them?

    We could even publish the formula publicly. I imagine it’d be a pretty simple formula. Thoughts?

    NuVal charges grocery stores a fee to use their scoring system. They’re running into a predictable problem: many stores don’t want NuVal coming in and putting a low score on hundreds of products.

  24. Ellen

    Developing some kind of rating system is a good idea, but it should be based on a scale that evaluates the “Extent of Processing”. So, Little Debbie snacks and high fructose corn syrup would be a the “worse” end of the scale, and grass fed beef would be at the “best” end of the scale. I just wrote a page about this on my website:

    The idea is based on this paper from a team at the University of Washington:

    Now that would be a worthwhile scale.

  25. Clair Schwan

    I love the double-tier pile of fresh fruit in the background of the NuVal executive. It was very reassuring to me. And, all of the alphabets and commas behind the names in the group that put this together was also impressive. Last but not least, the NuVal logo looks like a molecular structure. All are nice window dressing for a crayon level idea formulated by pointed-headed and well-educated idiots who should have put down that blue crayon long ago.

    A single number? So vitamins, minerals, fat, protein, carbohydrate, pesticides, herbicides, binders, fillers, colorings, stabilizers and chemical flavorings are all place in a bag and shook up for a minute or so? And, out pours a single number that dumbed-down Americans can finally understand. Outstanding!

    This 1 to 100 scheme is only a little better than the Homeland Security green, blue, yellow, orange and red scheme that Tom Ridge presented to us many years ago. No, wait! The colored coded scheme is better – much better. At least they weren’t afraid to provide conclusive evidence that they put the whole thing together with different colored crayons.

    Clair Schwan

    Well said.

  26. Ailu

    Bwahahahahaha! OMG, that has my sides aching! Oh how I love your blog.

    Funny thing is, when I discovered the evils of soy (Google “soy is evil” for more info) I became the Soy Milk Nazi. No way is MY MAN going to be turned into a PANSY. So it became “NO SOY FOR YOU!” LOL 😀

    When I first went low-carb, I bought a lot of low-carb products — pasta, crackers, etc. — that were made from soy. Once I read more about soy, I became a bit of a Soy Nazi myself.

  27. Phil

    “that whole “gram” thing doesn’t make sense to anyone except the drug addicts”

    That line makes me laugh & laugh. Great post, Tom! I hadn’t heard of NuVal – looks like one more thing to ignore at the grocery store.

    Eventually, they’ll have a shopping coach following you around and making suggestions.

  28. Shelley

    Oh my god, that woman’s voice – could they find anyone more condescending?! I had to laugh at the ‘best’ scientists and ‘best’ science bit. How long until these best scientists begin the next step in the NuVal process, whereby they lobby to have any food scoring below say, 60, banned from sale? Its okay though, as I’m sure this system will encourage manufacturers of low scoring food to come up with new and exciting ways in which to bastardise good wholesome food. Anything to get those high numbers, right?

    There was talk a while ago here in NZ to introduce traffic light labelling onto nutrition labels. Presumably the affliction of being too stupid to make your own informed choices is a world-wide phenomenon!

    Amazing how stupid the world-wide population became in the past 30-40 years, isn’t it?

  29. Ned Kock

    Hilarious and depressing at the same time.

    By the way, on a subject that is close to your heart, and also related to some confusion regarding numbers.

    Many people measure their glucose levels throughout the day with portable glucometers, and quite a few are likely to self-diagnose as pre-diabetics when they see something that they think is a “red flag”.

    Well, have you seen a graph plotting blood glucose variations in a group of normal (i.e., normoglycemic) individuals? It is a chaotic mess:

    I would expect the results to vary widely. But I’d also expect some of those people with the high peaks to become insulin resistant over time.

  30. Mark

    Gotta love the bad acting when the family couldn’t read the food label. It’s as if they’d given up and decided not buy food at all anymore since they were too dumb to understand how to eat.

    Why is it that they perceive the general public to be complete morons who can’t make decisions for themselves?

    I’ve wondered that myself. Go back a few generations, people somehow managed to stay lean despite almost no food labels whatsoever. Now, even with labels everywhere, obesity and diabetes are on the rise. This means one of two things: 1) We became stupid over the course of a couple of generations, or 2) the advice we’ve given is wrong.

    Since the low-fat hysterics are convinced their advice is correct, they’re stuck with option 1).

  31. Sonagi

    “I notice that oranges score 100 on this system. That implies that oranges supply all of our nutritional needs.

    I wonder why the orange-only diet hasn’t caught on?

    Apparently, we could live on organges and Silk soymilk.”

    If a person chose foods only with a score of 90+ without any supplementation, they’d quickly become malnourished. Yet another nutrition guideline FAIL

    That’s one of the many reasons the NuVal scores are just plain stupid.

  32. Max

    if this information causes someone to eat an orange instead of pancakes for breakfast, than this is more of a positive than you guys make this out to be. no one ever got fat eating oranges.

    i dont really see this as a bad thing. i find it more neutral than anything. this is a system that is based more on micros than macros. used together with information on this site, i’m not totally sure i see a downside.

    The downside is that people who don’t know any better and try to live on highly-rated foods will loading up on fruits, grains and soy. That’s a lousy diet.

    No one ever got fat eating oranges? You sure about that? What’s so magical about fruit juice that the sugar doesn’t have the same effect as any other sugar?

  33. Ned Kock

    > I would expect the results to vary widely. But I’d also expect some of those people with the high peaks to become insulin resistant over time.

    That seems to be the conventional wisdom, especially among some diabetes experts, but I am not so sure. I need to do a bit more research on this though.

    On that graph (on the post) it is difficult to see this, but some of the people with the highest peaks in one meal don’t have very high peaks in other meals. Also, the gray line associated with high glucose levels at night is not one of those with the highest peaks. Some of the folks who have high levels after 2 hours don’t have high peaks. Etc.

    It is hard to tell what is going on, maybe high peaks are signs of future insulin resistance, maybe not.

    For example, people who have higher than average levels of circulating growth hormone seem to be very good at using body fat for energy, especially in the form of albumin-bound free fatty acids, and not as much in the form of lipoprotein-bound triglycerides. This is a good thing, because it leads to high levels of adiponectin, which promotes insulin sensitivity, and also low levels of serum triglycerides (diabetics often have high trigs).

    But growth hormone peaks also temporarily increase blood glucose levels, and lead to physiological (benign) insulin resistance. This is very common after heavy resistance exercise.

    See what I mean? More complex than many people think.

  34. edella

    The absolute best bit of the video for me was the fact that both dr katz and the lady director of the new company were somewhat portly! (Following their own guidelines I guess…)

    Maybe they’re preparing for the “before” shots.

  35. Max

    theres a difference between eating oranges and drinking them. and according to the formula that they projected, i would expect orange juice to fall much lower on the nuval scale than its unjuiced cousin.

    in other news…

    by the way, i don’t disagree with you. in fact i enjoy your humor and your writing. but i just don’t see eye-to-eye with you. i think that focusing on micros instead of macros is a step in the right direction.

    An orange would be better than a glass of juice. But if you created a diet based on high NuVal ratings, it would still be fruit, vegetables, grains and soy … a lousy diet. We don’t need yet another labeling system steering people towards low-fat, high-carb foods.

  36. Bruce

    I think the problem with assigning a magical number to “healthy” foods, IS oranges. They have a score of 100. Great!! Eat an orange. It taste good and has some nutrition that you may (or may not, who the heck really knows) need. The problem is, the same people that will rely on the this score are the same ones that will follow the logic of “if an orange is a score of 100, then a 16 oz. glass of orange juice must be, like, I don’t know, a score of 250. I could probably hook up an Orange Sunny D drip, (what the heck that’s just like an orange, isn’t it?) and be the healthiest SOB in the country.”

    (Yes, I am aware that 100 is the highest score)

    So that could be the problem. Well that and the soy…I don’t care if it came up with a score of 100++, I am not eating that crud.

    Also, if you actually take the time to read the labels, and especially the ingredients of the product you are about to purchase, you will be appalled, delighted, amused, disgusted, or all of the above as to the ingredients needed for a product on the shelf. I read the labels for entertainment. Maybe, if people really knew what was in their food, they wouldn’t buy crap.

    And the NuVal score pushes anyone who believes in it to select low-fat everything. The last thing we need is more advice to skip the meats and eggs and fill up on cereal grains.

  37. Chris

    I’m guessing they are trying to sell this system to supermarket chains or get a highly rated food to purchase the NuVal system for the chain to point the way to higher sales for highly rated foods.

    If I ever saw the rating system in my super market, I would have a long talk with the manager and threaten to take my business elsewhere. That wouldn’t make a lot of difference if one person complained, but many complaints–and loud ones–would work.

    I’m about ready to have that same talk with the local Whole Foods manager. They have a new pyramid with an implied vegan agenda that is starting to tick me off every time I walk by. Fortunately, they have a great butcher shop and fish market in the new Chicago store.

    Keep speaking the truth to the bad advice we are getting from so-called scientists. Just as painting by numbers isn’t art, buying food by numbers is not informed shopping.

    That’s exactly what they’re doing; trying to sell the system to grocery stores. I sincerely hope it’s a flop.

  38. Melissa

    I see they disabled coments and ratings on that video!
    And here I wanted to vent out some steam on them. What a joke!

    Makes me wonder if the initial comments weren’t flattering.

  39. Gwen

    The thing that pisses me off most about this thing is that because they have a *patent*, they can stop anyone from making a competing numbering scale that uses the *actual* nutritional values based on proper, correct science that’ll make people healthy, instead of the government pyramid nonsense that’s making everyone fat and sick. As soon as someone tries to create FatHeadVal or HomoMathNutVal, or whatever you want to call it, with the REAL DATA, they’ll slap a patent infringement suit and a cease-and-desist on it.

    Actually, they could only prevent someone from using their algorithm. That’s the intellectual property here.

  40. Dr. David L. Katz

    Dear all-

    I agree the post was funny. It was, however, equally misleading.

    First, NuVal does, indeed, penalize added sugar and the glycemic load. And, it rewards ‘healthful’ oils- polyunsaturated (omega-3 get an additional bonus) and monounsaturates, while penalizing saturated and trans fats.

    As for the overall reliability- a study conducted independently by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health was presented last week at Experimental Biology in Anaheim, California. In 110,000 men and women followed over 20 years, the NuVal scores of the foods they ate were a slightly BETTER predictor of total chronic disease risk and all-cause mortality than the best measure of diet quality currently available, the Healthy Eating Index 2005. If higher scoring foods are associated with a lower risk of dying prematurely, the clever banter here is still clever- but ultimately, wrong.

    As for oranges or broccoli scoring 100: that simply says these are highly nutritious foods- which is not in dispute, not that you can or should eat nothing else! Educational materials that accompany NuVal wherever it goes make that very clear to anyone subject to such confusion. I confess that I, however, am a bit confused by all the banter suggesting people are too sophisticated to need the help of such a system, yet unsophisticated enough to make such a mistake. Which is it?

    Finally, regarding people not needing help: I don’t buy it, for many reasons. I have taken care of innumerable patients over the years who readily acknowledge how confused they are by all the messaging on food. Are we to believe that Madison Avenue is really generating health messages on food packages that don’t influence anyone? That seems beyond naive. If they do influence, the question is: in what direction? The NuVal database of over 45,000 foods shows it is all too often the wrong one: yes, the product is reduced in sugar, but overall nutritional quality is worse because of added starch, salt, saturated fat, and reduced fiber. Or it is reduced in saturated fat, but higher in sugar. And on it goes. Should the busy mom with kids in tow really have to figure this out on the fly?

    As a physician, I am not suggesting my patient is ‘simple’ when I interpret their ECG or lab work and help them reach a conclusion and understanding about the overall state of their health. I am just realistically applying hard-earned expertise I have and they don’t. Everyone seems to think they are expert in nutrition, but overwhelmingly, they are wrong- and subject to industry manipulations.

    Present company excluded…or maybe not.


    I don’t doubt that someone following NuVal scores would consume a better diet than someone making no intelligent choices whatsoever, or even following other guidelines that mimic the misguided food pyramid.

    However, we could prevent far more disease with a simple scoring system if it didn’t steer people towards garbage nature never intended for human consumption, such as soy and cereal grains, and didn’t scare them away from quality meats, butter, eggs, etc. — all of which were part of the human diet long before obesity and heart disease became epidemics.

    I’m sure we’ll never agree on the benefits vs. hazards of saturated fat, cholesterol, grains and soy. Nonetheless, thanks for checking in. (Industry manipulation? My accountant no doubt wishes that were true.)

  41. TWV

    I just saw a commerical on tv this morning for Kroger’s picking up this system. Personally I don’t like it, it gives the excuse to NOT include information about food (“See, its a 95, that’s good! Why do you need to know anything else?”)

    Oh, don’t worry; the FDA is about to make sure you can’t miss the nutrition label. Turns out we’ve gotten fatter because that label isn’t on the front of the box, you see.

  42. Sivam

    Going by NuVal inverted nutritional rating, good is bad and vice versa getting high scores, we wont go wrong in picking up those bottom dwellers like coconut oil,butter,not so lean meat,etc.,

    The high ratings for vegetables are fine, but when you rank soy milk higher than coconuts simply because coconuts are high in saturated fat, then then supposed science behind this system is weak or biased or both.

  43. Melissa

    I noticed Dr. Katz replied here!
    I’m sure his response about NuVal isn’t biased at all, considering he’s helped develop a system to market to grocery stores.
    It isn’t like he’s handing out free advice! It’s got to be paid for in some manner.
    I wouldn’t mind it if it were accurate and preventing something.
    But it’s just rehashed same old stuff, but made to look “Nu”.

    And of course I completely disagree that the cure for confusion is to give people a number to read. Here’s my cure: don’t eat sugar, don’t eat trans fats, don’t eat grains, don’t eat soy, limit your starches, and eat real food, not products that come in boxes.

  44. Paul C

    Dr. Katz, you are using the same argument that mutual fund managers use. Come up with a rating system, and promote the system that says what you want (go vegetarian), while sweeping the rating system that doesn’t say what you want under the rug.

    The truth is both were a coin flip and you like heads and kept the head.

    Here is some truth that doesn’t need an advanced degree to understand: If your rating system scores Teddy Grahams higher than a coconut, you need to start over.

  45. Tim

    The basic premise behind this system is that people are too stupid to understand the (albeit simplistic and flawed) nutritional math that the USDA has come up with.

    So the solution is to give them numbers to compare substitution products (Captain Crunch is worse for your than Count Chocula) and hope these people (with the help of their fingers and toes) come up with their own algorithm for their overall dietary plan?

    The were probably some really sh*tty Christmases in NuVal households, where Shredded Wheat and chocolate soy milk were served up instead of turkey…

    Not even The Grinch would serve soy milk on Christmas.

  46. Laurie613

    I just don’t get it… I was so excited about this. My son & I are both reactive hypoglycemic’s so I spend SOOOO much time reading & comparing labels. I was hoping this would make things easier for me, but it just doesn’t make sense.

    IE: They gave Cocoa Puffs a score of 25 & Kashi Strawberry Fields only got an 11. The serving size for Cocoa Puffs is only 3/4 cup, while a serving of Kashi’s cereal is 1 cup, so that means Cocoa Puffs LOOKS LIKE it has less calories & sodium, but the Kashi’s lower in fat & sugar, & higher in potassium & protein.

    So how can they call the Cocoa Puffs the more “nutritious” choice????? I really can’t see how that’s possible. AAAAaaaarrrrgggh! Soooo aggravating!!

    The best advice would be to ignore those ratings.


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