Eating Healthy

Grouping Results and Nutrilyze Numbers

Todd Whitaker

Last week, Nutrilyze evaluated the nutritional content of a set of chain restaurant meals for a group of hypothetical users. This week, Nutrilyze continues the analysis by grouping results according to profile characteristics and demonstrating how groups will generate different scores.

Nutrilyze reveals how chain restaurant meals score for specific biometrics and activity levels. Here are some of the results found:

  • On average, scores for men are 4.1% higher than scores for women.
  • Scores reduce by an average of 2.0% for every ten years a user ages.
  • Individuals with higher Body Mass Index (BMI) have lower scores, however this trend is primarily driven by activity level and weight goal assumptions for overweight and obese individuals.

  • Scores rise as activity level increases.
  • Scores decrease for users with weight loss goals.

Several different factors can explain the reason for the variation in scores, however in each case the primary cause for the variance is the different calorie requirements for each group.

  • Women, on average, require less daily calories than men because of their size.
  • Recommended caloric intake decreases as you age.
  • Overweight and obese individuals are assumed to be more sedentary in the simulation. Active individuals require more calories than their sedentary counterparts. Higher caloric intake also translates to elevated limits for potentially unhealthy nutrients like saturated fat and sugar. Therefore, certain components in a meal will not be as detrimental as they may be to others.
  • Users with weight loss goals will require less daily calories and therefore incur greater score detriments for excessive calories in a meal. The simulation assumes overweight and obese individuals are more likely to have weight loss goals.

Nutrilyze scores are developed by initially calculating a baseline sufficiency score with penalties from detriment scores subsequently applied. The average penalty to baselines scores for excessive calories is 12%. For smaller individuals with a sedentary lifestyle the averages jump to 20% – 40%. The average meal in this data set contained 755 calories, which can help explain why so many of these meals had low scores.

While Nutrilyze takes calories into account, it delves deeper by analyzing the nutrient density and source of the calories to determine their value in the meal’s total score. For example, dietary guidelines for sugars and saturated fats are based on a percentage of required daily calories. Individuals requiring high-calorie diets (highly active individuals, or those trying to gain weight) are less likely to receive score detriments coming from sugars and fats.

Nutrilyze found that for macronutrients (i.e. protein, carbohydrates, and fats) 80% of hypothetical users had sufficiency scores of 80 or above. This suggests that the meals analyzed generally have an adequate amount of protein, carbohydrates, and fats for most consumers. For highly active, larger individuals this score drops to 60 due to their increased need for nutrients that provide fuel for an active lifestyle. Fiber scores are the lowest among the macronutrients at an average of 63.8.

Sodium proved to be the biggest detriment and caused an average 24% reduction to overall meal scores. The FDA recommends limiting sodium intake to 2,300 mg per day. However, 20% of meals analyzed contain more than 2,300 mg of sodium! On average, the meals analyzed contained 1,726 mg of sodium. Assuming users consume three equally sized meals a day, 92% of the meals exceed the upper limit of sodium content recommend for a single meal.

The American Heart Association reports that excessive sodium consumption may lead to, or raise, high blood pressure. Individuals with high blood pressure are more likely to develop heart disease and increase their risk of stroke. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death by almost every measure. Due to this, Nutrilyze takes a hard stance on detriments for sodium content.

By calculating scores using the detriment and sufficiency method, Nutrilyze quickly exposes the hidden risks to seemingly healthy meals. A vegetarian tofu stir fry with steamed broccoli may seem like a healthy option, but in reality contains 4,000 mg of sodium and 900 calories. Meals commonly perceived as healthy like grilled salmon, baked chicken, and soup and salad combinations consistently scored lower than expected. While these meals do offer leaner protein and less calories, they can contain significant amounts of saturated fats, sodium and other unhealthy ingredients. Consistently consuming these nutrients in amounts above the recommended daily upper limits is shown to place people at risk for chronic disease.

In next week’s post Nutrilyze will take a final glance at our set of chain restaurants meals to see how Nutrilyze can help users meet their dietary goals. We will use two hypothetical users as an example: a 45-year-old sedentary female executive and a 21-year-old active male collegiate athlete.