The purpose of this research is to establish, validate, apply, and disseminate a measure of overall nutritional quality that can be applied to virtually any food on a supermarket shelf or restaurant menu. Consumer understanding of nutrition information is key to making dietary choices consistent with guidelines. The development of an objective, science-based, and universally applicable system of nutrition guidance would be of considerable potential value to the public health.
The resulting ONQI algorithm incorporates over 30 entries representing both micronutrient and macronutrient properties of foods, as well as weighting coefficients representing epidemiologic associations between nutrients and health outcomes. The basic entry in the algorithm is a weighted trajectory score, which compares nutrient concentration in a food to the recommended concentration of a given nutrient in a healthful diet. In content validity testing, ONQI rankings and expert panel rankings correlated highly (R = .92; p < .001). In regression analysis, aggregated ONQI scores for total diet corresponded well with the Healthy Eating Index (p < .001) in the National Health and Nutrient Examination Survey 2003-2006 cohort (n = 15,900). Consumer research indicated strong appeal to consumers of the ONQI system in general, and the scores on a 1 to 100 scale specifically. A system for acquiring nutrient data, meeting U.S. Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture standards, has been established so that virtually any food, beverage, meal, or recipe can be scored. Combined with a consumer education program, the ONQI has considerable potential to improve dietary patterns, and consequently the public health.