A comparison of different practical indices for assessing carbohydrate quality among carbohydrate-rich processed products in the US

Junxiu Liu, Colin D. Rehm, Peilin Shi, Nicola M. McKeown, Dariush Mozaffarian, Renata Micha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations

Abstract

Healthier carbohydrate (carb)-rich foods are essential for health, but practical, validated indices for their identification are not established. We compared four pragmatic metrics, based on, per 10g of carb:(a) ≥1g fiber (10:1 carb:fiber), (b) ≥1g fiber and <1g free sugars (10:1:1 carb:fiber:free sugars), (c) ≥1g fiber and <2g free sugars (10:1:2 carb:fiber:free sugars); and (d) ≥1g fiber and, per each 1 g of fiber, <2g free sugars (10:1 carb:fiber, 1:2 fiber:free sugars; or 10:1|1:2). Using 2013–2016 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey/Food and Nutrient Database for Dietary Studies, we assessed, overall and for 12 food categories, whether each metric discriminated carb-rich products higher or lower (per 100g) in calories, total fat, saturated fat, protein, sugar, fiber, sodium, potassium, magnesium, folate, and 8 vitamins/minerals. Among 2,208 carb-rich products, more met 10:1 (23.2%) and 10:1| 1:2 (21.3%), followed by 10:1:2 (19.2%) and 10:1:1 (16.4%) ratios, with variation by product sub-categories. The 10:1 and 10:1|1:2 ratios similarly identified products with lower calories, fat, free sugars, and sodium; and higher protein, fiber, potassium, magnesium, iron, vitamin B6, vitamin E, zinc and iron. The 10:1:2 and 10:1:1 ratios identified products with even larger differences in calories and free sugars, but smaller differences in other nutrients above and lower folate, thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin; the latter findings were attenuated after excluding breakfast cereals (~9% of products). These novel findings inform dietary guidance for consumers, policy, and industry to identify and promote the development of the healthier carb-rich foods.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0231572
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume15
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2020
Externally publishedYes

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