… but I’d be wary.

IMAGE_034So I’m swinging by the Whole Foods Market picking up a quick morning bite of bacon … lots of bacon (see, the ‘by weight’ pricing of the buffet skews seriously well for our carnivores – not so much for the potato and bread eaters). There I come across this display touting this new system for evaluating the nutrient density of food. It’s call the ANDI system for “Aggregate Nutrient Density Index.”

So I say “hmm, that’s interesting” and finish chowing on my delicious bacon and think I’ll go look this up a little later when I’m online with a big screen. Then it just slips my mind. A few weeks later, I come across a much bigger display at another Whole Foods, so I decide this time I’ll actually look it up.

Seems the ANDI is the brainchild of Dr. Dr. Joel FurhmanJoel Fuhrman, a practicing family physician in New Jersey and author of several books on diet. When I do manage to get info about the index, I find that it’s a blatant pitch for veganism. How do I know this, well, the index goes essentially from 1 to 2000. In looking at the scale, you don’t get to an animal product until you get to salmon (doesn’t distinguish between wild/farmed) way down at 39 out of 1,000. the next animal protein you get is chicken breast and eggs down at 27. The only beef on the list is ground beef coming in at 20.

So how does he do it, Dr. Fuhrman? We’ll we will never know because it’s patented. Here’s an excerpt from his web site extolling the virtues of ANDI:

To determine the scores above almost all vitamins and minerals were considered and added in. Nutrient Data from Nutritionist Pro software for an equal caloric amount of each food item was obtained. We included the following nutrients in the evaluation: Calcium, Carotenoids: Beta Carotene, Alpha Carotene, Lutein & Zeaxanthin, Lycopene, Fiber, Folate, Glucosinolates, Iron, Magnesium, Niacin, Selenium, Vitamin B1 (Thiamin) Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Zinc, plus ORAC score X 2 (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity is a method of measuring the antioxidant or radical scavenging capacity of foods).

Nutrient quantities, which are normally in many different measurements (mg, mcg, IU) were converted to a percentage of their RDI so that a common value could be considered for each nutrient. Since there is currently no RDI for Carotenoids, Glucosinolates, or ORAC score, goals were established based on available research and current understanding of the benefits of these factors. (limited references below). The % RDI or Goal for each nutrient which the USDA publishes a value for was added together to give a total. All nutrients were weighted equally with a factor of one except for the foods ORAC score. The ORAC score was given a factor 2 (as if it were two nutrients) due to the importance of antioxidant phytonutrients so that a contribution  from unnamed and unscored anti-oxidant phytochemicals were represented in the scoring. The sum of the food’s total nutrient value was then multiplied by a fraction to make the highest number equal 1000 so that all foods could be considered on a numerical scale of 1 to 1000.

1 Dr. Fuhrman’s nutrient density food rankings, scoring system, and point determinations of foods and it dietary application to individual medical needs is patented. The patent is held by Dr. Fuhrman and Kevin Leville of Eat Right America.

Any scale of nutritional value that asserts salmon has approximately 1/20th the nutritional value of kale has to be suspect. One quick read above makes it clear that Dr. Fuhrman also doesn’t believe there’s any value in amino acids or any dietary fat at all.

My sense is this ANDI scoring system is there to promote a veg*an agenda (notice the all veg*an book selections adjacent to the display) and should be looked at with a great deal of skepticism as a way of ensuring optimal health.