Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Nutrition Labeling

Picture above shows the example of the nutrition labeling of a food product.

  • Nutritional label is a listing of the level of nutrients as displayed on the food label. It is meant to provide factual info about the nutritional content of the product. It is used to help consumers make choices between the similar products and also help them to choose the product based on their health condition and requirement.

  • The ingredient list is label in descending order of predominance by weight. Knowing that the first ingredient predominates by weight, consumers can glean much information. How ingredient list can influence your choice? For example, if you are a diabetes patient, the first ingredient in a product is sugar, which indicates high sugar content. Thus, that product probably is not a good choice for you based on the health condition.

The picture above shows the serving size and % DV of a food product.

  • The first place to start when looking at the nutrition facts label is the serving size and the number of servings per package. Serving sizes are standardized to make it easier to compare other similar foods with similar units. For example, the serving size for all ice-cream is ½ cup. The number of serving per package influence the number of calories and the amount of nutrients that listed on the nutritional label. For example, one serving of a package of chip is 200g and the number of servings per package is 10. If you ate the whole package, you would eat 2,000g which is considered a high amount. That are ten times to the calories and other nutrients number, includes the %Daily Values as displayed in the label.

  • In the nutrition facts listed on food labels, nutrient quantity and % Daily Value of total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, total carbohydrate, sodium, dietary fiber, sugars, protein and some of the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) are shown.
  • Daily Values (DV) indicates the amount of a particular nutrient in a serving of a food item. The percentage of a Daily Value (% DV) reflects how much a nutrient is in the food product, comparing to the Daily Value. Generally, vitamins and minerals are expressed in % DV; meanwhile fat, saturated and trans fats, carbohydrate and fiber are expressed both by weight in grams and % DV. For cholesterol, the % DV is optional.                        

  • In order to calculate the actual amount of the minerals and vitamins, we have to multiply the % DV with the DV of the consumer. The DV is different for male and female of different age. For example, there is 20% DV of Vitamin C in a food product. In order to get the actual amount of Vitamin C in the product, we can use the 20% multiplies with the DV of men which is 70 mg. Then, we get 14 mg of Vitamin C. One of the advantages of using % DV is that it is easier for consumers to understand the relative amounts present in the product as compared to those expressed in a unit like RE (vitamin A) and µg. Besides, the % DV provides a quick overview of the nutrient facts of the food, allowing comparisons based on more than one nutrient. Consumers can use % DV to determine whether the food product has a higher or lower amount of a nutrient. For example, a food product that has 5 % DV for fat, sodium or cholesterol would be low in these nutrients; and a product that has 10 % DV or less for saturated and trans fats would be low in these nutrients. However, a food that has 15 % DV or more for calcium, iron or fiber would be high in these nutrients. Sometimes, there is no % DV for sugars in a food label because there is no RNI for sugars.

The video above explains the importance and information found on a nutrition label.

  • There are also nutrition claims showing the responsibility of the nutrients in our body and the amount in the food. Consumers can compare similar products and choose the appropriate products by referring to the nutrition facts listed. For example, when a person is looking for a butter product with low fat content, he can look for the product with the nutrition claim. To determine whether the claim is true, he can look at the fat content and if the fat content is less than 3g per 100g, then it is true. 

  • Besides, for some susceptible groups such as the elderly which have higher risk of getting some common bone diseases such as osteoporosis, they may look for high calcium milk product based on the nutrition fact that the calcium content fulfils the criterion 20% or more of the Daily Value. While for some people with certain health condition like high blood pressure and high cholesterol, they have to decrease the intake of salt (sodium chloride) and cholesterol, they may choose the product with low, free or reduced sodium and cholesterol contents as well as low trans fat content as the artificial trans fat increases Low-Density-Lipoprotein (LDL) which is a bad cholesterol, and decreases High-Density-Lipoprotein (HDL) which is a good cholesterol, according to the nutrition facts.

  • In order to determine whether the product provides you low or high content of the particular nutrient, you have to use the gram (per serving) of the particular nutrient displayed on the label divide with the RNI value of the particular nutrient. If the result comes out less than 5%, it indicates the product has low content for that nutrient. In contrast, if there is more than 20%, it shows the product has high content for that nutrient. RNI is the average daily dietary intake level that is sufficient to meet the nutrient requirement of nearly all apparently healthy individuals in a particular life stage and gender group.

• Rolfes, S. R., Pinna, K., and Whitney, E., 2009. Planning a Healthy Diet. In: Understanding Normal and Clinical Nutrition. 8th Ed. Canada: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, pg. 55-60.

Posted by
Tan Wai Yan
Low Chong Peing
Teoh Ai Lee
Wong Wai Yan


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