What is Nutrition?

Nutrition is the most basic need yet the most underestimated concept in the general population. It is a critical requirement for healthy growth and development from the stage of conception to old age. It constitutes the process of consuming, absorbing and using nutrients needed by the body for the maintenance of life.

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To give the body proper nutrition, a person must eat and drink enough of the foods that contain key nutrients. The food is consumed, broken down internally and transported throughout the bloodstream to different parts of the body where they are used as ‘fuel’. This results in the release of important and beneficial biomolecules which then helps in functioning, maintaining or improving bio metabolisms like muscle building, energy production, immunity and eventually overall longevity.

When it is talked about gaining proper nutrition, many times it’s overlooked that wholesome nutrition is something that includes nutrients contributed by 3-4 types of food groups mainly composing cereals, pulses or legumes, vegetables and fruits, and/or dairy products. Nuts and oilseeds, essential fats and other non-vegetarian foods being additional beneficial requirements.

What is nutritional analysis of food and when to do it?

Nutritional analysis of food is the process that involves determining the nutritional content of food. It is one important part of analytical chemistry that provides information about the chemical composition, processing, quality control and contamination of food. The nutritional information examined can be anything and everything from calories to vitamins and minerals. In India, Nutritional Analysis Methods are standardized and set by FSSAI.

The knowledge of the chemical and biochemical composition of foods is important in many aspects of nutrition, dietetics, health, food science, biodiversity, plant breeding, food industry, trade and food regulation. all having main concern for the health, well-being and safety of the consumers. This analysis can be efficiently used to ensure compliance with defined customers’ specifications and national and international regulations relating to food nutrition labelling, quality assurance and health and safety legislation.

The parameters checked for most of the food products manufactured usually includes proximate analysis, fats, carbohydrates, protein, fibre, sugars, vitamins, minerals and sometimes trace elements. This selection of nutrients depends on the purpose and requirements of the analysis and regulations of the respective country. For instance, as per FSSAI, the required parameters to be checked and labelled on the packaged food products meant to be sold in Indian markets are energy, protein, total carbohydrates with total and added sugar, total fats with trans-fat, saturated fats, cholesterol and sodium. And hence, nutritional analysis of the food products is performed by an industry and it is the job of the manufacturer to ensure compliance with the national regulations in terms of limits and labelling of the food products.

Nutritional requirements as per FSSAI

As per Food Safety and Standards (Labelling and Display) Regulations (2020), every pre- packaged food must have a defined and unambiguous label on or attached to them in such a way that it is easily readable and understandable by the consumer. These labels shall not be, in any terms, false, misleading or deceptive to cause any possible misunderstanding to the consumer while making their choice for purchase. Among various compulsory requirements under this regulation, one necessary information is a Nutritional Label describing the detailed nutritional properties of the food.

According to this regulation, the pre-packaged food products shall display the following nutrients per 100 grams or 100 ml or per single consumption pack:

– energy value (kcal);
– protein (g);
– carbohydrate (g) under which total sugars (g) and added sugars (g);
– total fats under which saturated fats (g), trans fat (g), and cholesterol (mg); and
– sodium (mg);
– other minerals, vitamins and nutritional constituents when/if any claims related to them are made.

Nutritional Analysis comes into the picture to meet this legal requirement by every food manufacturer. Using proper and authentic methods, they are required to get their food samples tested or carry out the testing in their own labs to ensure the fulfilment of the compliance. There are defined experiments and scientific methods available that are used by industries to analyze food components like fat, sugar, dietary fibre, protein, carbohydrate, etc. From these nutrients, the amount of energy in a food product is calculated by using conversion factors such as Carbohydrates: 4 kcal/g, Protein: 4 kcal/g, Fat: 9 kcal/g, and Dietary fibre: 2kcal/g.

Other compulsory requirement under the regulation is to mention the percentage daily value (%DV) for energy, total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, added sugar and sodium per serving of the food product. This defines the contribution of the nutrients in the given food to Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of an average adult per day. The RDA is set by National Institute of Nutrition of Indian Council of Medical Research which recommends the required amount of nutrients to be consumed by a healthy population daily in order to maintain growth, repair and longevity. The %DV can help the consumer determine if a serving of food is high or low in a nutrient. It helps them to make informed choices by letting them know the amount of nutrients that the food will be adding to their diet. The percentages are calculated compared to the values as 2000kcal energy, 67 g total fat, 22 g saturated fat, 2 g trans fat, 50 g added sugar, and 2000 mg of sodium (5 g salt).

Other requirements in the nutrition label of a food package include mentioning of the amount of food in grams (g) or millilitre (ml), serving size, and the number of servings in the package.

• Analysis of the food product

Nutritional analysis of food can be carried out by one of two methods: laboratory testing or theoretical calculation.

Lab testing involves sending a sample of the food to a lab where it is tested using special machines and scientific processes whereas, theoretical calculation involves using established databases of average amounts for each ingredient and compiling a profile for a recipe. It uses recipe or formulation, raw ingredient nutrient data and loss or addition occurred due to processing and calculation of the overall nutrient value of the finished product is performed.

Laboratory Analysis

Though both of the mentioned methods have their own pros and cons, the data for industrial uses are normally derived from quantitative chemical and/or physical analysis of representative samples of foods and beverages. For this, food companies send samples of food to laboratories, where, by utilizing scientific methods and equipment, the food sample is analyzed for the different components as needed.

There are a variety of certified methods used for performing nutritional analysis. Many modern analytical techniques have been developed, including electrophoresis, chromatography, spectroscopy, rheological techniques and sensory evaluation, to meet the challenge of providing information on the diverse components of these complex food materials. Other factors that affect the choice of test methods include detection capability, ease of use, speed of analysis, and low cost. The laboratory analysis measures the actual levels of nutrients in the prepared or pre- packaged food, thus providing a high level of accuracy in the analysis. Any possible changes in the nutritional or physiochemical value of food happening due to cooking and processing is considered. This is of great importance because calories in a food tend to increase or decrease during the cooking process depending on the method used. For example, added fats increase calorie content during frying and decrease during grilling. Moreover, salt can be added during food preparation, increasing the dish’s final sodium content. Similarly, it also helps in revealing the retention or washing of minerals and vitamins from the product.

Need for Nutritional Analysis of food:

• To carry out a detailed and perfect determination of the component nutrients present in any food item. Food scientists analyze foods to obtain information about their composition, appearance, texture, flavour, etc. and also to guarantee the quality of the product.

• To test the shelf life of the food product. Complete analysis is performed at defined intervals and at the end of the shelf life as mentioned on the food package. Any changes in the nutritional value, sensory, chemical, physical and microbiological characteristics are considered in maintaining the desired quality of the product or checking the deterioration in the desired environment.

• For the nutritional value of a food, FSSAI has allowed a +/-20% deviation in the values declared and the possible actual values i.e. it allows the seasonal variations in the processing, raw material to be accommodated, etc. Nutritional values declared should be tested at the end of shelf life so that we can confirm that the product delivers the given values even on last day of shelf life to consumer.

• In the food industry, nutritional analysis of food is recommended to be done every five years as there can be changes in the environment, climate or changes in the breed, e.g. mutations in genes especially in agriculture-based grains.

• Any other reasons like change of the place, region or type of the raw material and any modification in the steps of the manufacturing process also prompt for a thorough analysis of the material and the processed food product.

• Nutritional Analysis is a very crucial requirement in the food processing industry as nutritional facts on the label of the food product with percentages and ingredients is an important requirement of FSSAI regulations, along with the mentioning of shelf life or Manufacturing and Expiry date.

• Analysis of food is performed to detect the exact percentage of macro and micronutrients as well as the presence of inhibitors, toxic chemicals, or any other new component e.g., as required in nutrition mapping of Indian Foods by the Indian Council of Medical Research.

• To form the combination of Supplementary Food in nutrition intervention programs planned and implemented by government or NGOs for meeting the nutritional need of the target consumer group.

• It is used by international entities like World Health Organization, UNICEF, etc. to provide better nourishment for the deprived part of the world and the patients with crucial ailments.

• Parameters needed for export products:

Nutritional parameters required to be analyzed and displayed for products manufactured with the intention of export needs to meet the guidelines of the respective importing countries. Every foreign market has their own rules and regulations in regards of pre-packaged or processed food products. They may or may not have similar list of requirements to FSSAI regulations for food labelling and Indian manufacturers with their products in the global market needs to meet the requirements and limits of the country they are exporting to. For example, compulsory nutrients for USA market for labelling are calories, fats (with SFA and Trans), cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates (with dietary fibre, total sugars and added sugar), protein, vitamin D, calcium, iron and potassium. Meanwhile for Europe, only energy, fat, saturated fat, carbohydrates, sugars, protein and salt are to be mentioned on the label.

Along with the guidelines for display on the packages of food products, the limits of nutrients or the percentage requirements that are allowed are also needs to be taken proper care of. It is the duty of the manufacturer to understand thoroughly and comply with the labelling regulations of the importing countries.

Impacts of various parameters on our body and health

The positive or beneficial parameters or the nutrients that can be considered to be lesser on the destructive side when consumed frequently are energy, protein, dietary fibre from total carbohydrates, mono unsaturated and poly unsaturated fat and vitamins and minerals. The negative or non-beneficial parameters or the nutrients that can cause destructive effects when consumed frequently and needs to be moderated are saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, added sugar, sodium and more or less energy based on the consumption frequency.

These nutrients have potential for contributing to the risk of a number of non- communicable diseases like obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, etc. Trans fat increases LDL level, also called as bad cholesterol, and reduces HDL (also known as good cholesterol) level. This is one important cause for heart diseases. Some common sources of trans fat are partially hydrogenated oil, processed foods like cakes, cookies, crackers, margarine, fried potatoes, potato chips, popcorn, etc. Similarly, large consumption of saturated fats in your diet can raise bad cholesterol in your blood, which can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. These fats all contribute to the caloric value of the food to a greater extent, hence turning the food into a high risk for weight gain and obesity.

However, a product having less percentage of fat does not mean its energy content will be low as well. These extra calories are also contributed by free sugars added in foods such as sweets, cakes, biscuits, chocolate, and some fizzy drinks and juice drinks. These are foods that are advised to cut down in our diet. Consumption of too much sugar contribute to people having too many calories, which can lead to weight gain, which apparently increases the risk of health problems such as cardiovascular disease, some cancers and type 2 diabetes. Hence it is important for consumer to understand the technique of food labelling and the concept of nutrition to make informed and wise choices in food products for their health.

References:

1. The Purpose of Nutrition Analysis, Sigma Test and Research Centre (STRC) website https://www.sigmatest.org/blog/the-purpose-of-nutrition-analysis, 2023

2. Overview of Nutrition, Merck Manual website
https://www.msdmanuals.com/en-in/home/disorders-of-nutrition/overview-of-nutrition/overview-of-nutrition, 2023

3. General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of the People’s Republic of China (AQSIQ) website https://www.aqsiq.net/nutritional-analysis, 2023

4. Md Noh, M. F., Gunasegavan, R. D., Mustafa Khalid, N., Balasubramaniam, V., Mustar, S., & Abd Rashed, A. (2020). Recent Techniques in Nutrient Analysis for Food Composition Database. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 25(19), 4567. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules25194567

5. What is Nutritional Analysis? Healthy Food Solutions website, 2022
https://www.healthyfoodsolutions.co.uk/what-is-nutritional-analysis/

6. Schakel, S.F., Buzzard, I.M. and Gebhardt, S.E. (1997) ‘Procedures for estimating nutrient values for food composition databases’, Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, 10(2), pp. 102–114. doi:10.1006/jfca.1997.0527.

7. Food Safety and Standards (Labelling and Display) Regulations (2020), FSSAI website, 2023
https://www.fssai.gov.in/upload/uploadfiles/files/Comp_Labelling.pdf

8. The Lows and Highs of Percent Daily Value on the New Nutrition Facts Label, Food and Drug Administration website, 2022
(https://www.fda.gov/food/new-nutrition-facts-label/lows-and-highs-percent-daily-value-new-nutrition-facts-label)

Report of Nutrient Requirements for Indians, ICMR-National Institute of Nutrition, 2020

– Code of Federal Regulations website, 2023
– Official Journal of the European Union, European Union aw website, 2018
– Dhaka, V., Gulia, N., Ahlawat, K. S., & Khatkar, B. S. (2011). Trans fats-sources, health risks and alternative approach – A review. Journal of food science and technology, 48(5), 534–541. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13197-010-0225-8
– Fat: the facts. National Health Service website. Updated 2023 (https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat- well/food-types/different-fats-nutrition/)
– Sugar: the facts. National Health Service website. Updated 2023 (https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat- well/food-types/how-does-sugar-in-our-diet-affect-our-health/)
– Phimolsiripol, Yuthana & Suppakul, Panuwat. (2016). Techniques in Shelf Life Evaluation of Food Products. 10.1016/B978-0-08-100596-5.03293-5.

About the Authors:
1. Pooja Singh
Food Technologist
2. Shashank Joshi
Food Technologist
Email ID: shankbhopal@yahoo.com

Author

An editor by day & dreamer at night; passionately involved with both print and digital media; Pet lover; Solo traveller.

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