ANDI Score: The Hidden Dangers

By: Dr. Steve Warshaw - Learn these 3 secret recipes for younger, flawless skin
May I ask you a quick question? Why, in today’s information laden society, is nutrition becoming more difficult, conflicting, and downright confusing? From the 3 food groups, to the food pyramid, to the ANDI score, figuring out what to eat seems only to be getting more difficult. In my lifetime, I have seen the federal government completely change it’s dietary recommendation system on 3 separate occasions. When I walk through the bookstore, I intentionally look through the diet and nutrition section just to see how many are there, and it never ceases to amaze me the literally thousands of books on the subject. It’s no wonder Americans and Europeans are becoming progressively more obese, while rural Chinese people who eat a diet high in carbohydrates and fat manage to live longer, more healthy lives.

What is the ANDI Score
ANDI, or Aggregate Nutrient Density Index is a score assigned to raw, whole foods. The system measures the amount and array of nutrients in a food, and then ranks that food as a quotient of nutrients divided by calories. The image to the right summarizes the foods in the scale fairly nicely.

ANDI Score Danger #1 – A Calorie is NOT a Calorie
The primary flaw with the good Dr.’s system is that it is based on the number of calories in a food. This method is critically flawed, because, as I said, a calorie is not a calorie. For instance, are collard greens really more healthy than raw, wild salmon? What if you have arthritis, or high cholesterol? The example above highlights the major problem, which is of course that green vegetables, while amazingly healthy, do not contain much protein, although they are amino acid rich. In order to get the same amount of protein as a 4 ounce serving of salmon (23 grams) , you’d have to eat almost 3 pounds of collard greens. Healthy fats expose another weakness in the system. As a matter of fact, we know that Omega 3′s are amazingly beneficial for our healthy, particularly in cases of inflammatory diseases. 1 gram of fat contains 9 calories, which is equal to about 30 grams of raw collard greens. Yet, Salmon only ranks 39 / 1000 on the ANDI score, while collards are scored at 1000.

The bottom line is that the ANDI score, is a micronutrient based score, which means it takes into consideration things like vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, but doesn’t consider macronurients, IE protein, fat, carbohydrate. According to Dr. Furman, “The more macronutrients we eat, the shorter our life span. The more micronutrients you eat, the longer your life span.” I’m fairly certain the Omega 3 example I gave above thoroughly disproves that premise, but here is another: walnuts. Walnuts are loaded with healthy omega 3′s, as well as cholesterol lowering sterols, complete proteins, and b vitamins. Yet, they are ranked only slightly ahead of white potatoes?

ANDI Score Danger #2 – All Nutrients aren’t Created Equal
There is no way to extrapolate the weightings of each nutrient on the ANDI score based on their formula, but we do know that they use the USDA’s NAL database as the source of their nutrient information, which means it likely includes the list of items is the micronutrients listed on this page: http://www.ars.usda.gov/Services/docs.htm?docid=22114, which boils down to this list: Calcium Manganese Iron Selenium Magnesium Vitamin A (IU) Lutein+zeaxanthin Vitamin D, mcg Vitamin D, IU Vitamin E (alphaPhosphorus Vitamin A (RAE) tocopherol) Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper Niacin Pantothenic acid Vitamin B-6

Vitamin B-12 Dietary Folate Alpha-carotene Vitamin K (phylloquinone) Equivalents Beta-carotene Vitamin C Choline Beta-cryptoxanthin Thiamin Lycopene Riboflavin

Also, according to his website, the ANDI score was recently revised: Since the original calculation of the ANDI scores new information has come to light regarding certain beneficial phytochemicals, such as angiogenesis inhibitors, organosulfides, isothiocyanates, and aromatase inhibitors. Dr. Fuhrman has incorporated this information into a revised algorithm that more accurately reflects the nutritional value of each food. The bottom line is that the list of phytochemicals in food, and our understanding of phytochemicals changes everyday. Without knowing the weights placed on each of them within

the ANDI score algorithm, how do we know we are eating the best food for our genetics, and specific health conditions? Ultimately, you’d have to research each of the items on the list individually, which limits its value.

ANDI Score Danger #3 – No Distinction Between Organic and Non-Organic produce
The nutritarian diet recommendations are based on the ANDI score, which means nutritarians are going to be eating a great deal of green leafy vegetables. Yet, the system makes no distinction between organic and non-organic produce. If you’re going to be eating these foods as your primary source of nutrients and calories, would it not at least behoove the system to research and mention organics? You might be asking yourself why doesn’t the system include organic versus non organic? The answer is quite simple, the ANDI score is based on the USDA’s NAL database to gather the data for its algorithm, and the USDA doesn’t provide a distinction between organic and non-organic produce. This leads to some very interesting questions. As it turns out, Kevin Leville, founder / ceo of Eat Right America, was the individual who took the density calculations and figured out how to automate them for a wider variety of foods. Is there a difference between organic and non-organic produce. You bet there is! One study concluded that: Organic crops contained significantly more vitamin C, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus and significantly less nitrates than conventional crops. There were nonsignificant trends showing less protein but of a better quality and a higher content of nutritionally significant minerals with lower amounts of some heavy metals in organic crops compared to conventional ones. This means that micronutrients (remember this is a micronutrient system) are found in stronger concentrations in organic produce, so why not at least mention it as part of the scoring? I don’t know for certain, but I have my opinions which I’ll keep to myself.

The Biggest Danger of the ANDI Score:
All of the top foods on the list are excellent sources of nutrition, so you might be wondering why I have written a counter-opinion to the system. Ultimately, I think Dr. Furman has identified the undeniable fact that we are fatter and less healthy than previous generations, and attempted to come up with a system which focuses on healthy weight loss and improved health through consumption of more nutritious foods. That aspect of the system I do appreciate.

However, the problem is the solution to the problem engages consumers in an act of disinformation. It ultimately teaches people imbalanced, uninformed, and lazy food selection habits. By giving people a list of foods which are low-calorie / nutrient dense, and calling them “the most nutritious,” you remove the impetus to understand what exactly is being put into your body. At the highest level, nutrition should be easy. For instance, eat the widest variety of multicolored vegetables and fruits, wild organic caught sea fish, lean cuts of range fed beef and poultry, and various nuts, seeds, and legumes. If people could follow that advice, a nutrient scale would not be necessary!

In my next article, I will show you how this list can be a useful tool in your overall nutrition plan!

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