The Balanced Nutrition Index™
The Balanced Nutrition Index™ (BNI™)5 is a technological application (a formula) created by Perezgonzalez (see, for example, 20071) for assessing the nutritional balance of foods, recipes and diets. It uses average dietary recommended intakes (RDIs) for assessing the nutritional balance of foods, thus being able to index foods and diets according to such balance.
The BNI's underlying principle is quite simple: it subtracts actual macronutrients' contribution from 'ideal' macronutrients' contribution, adds the differences and, in so doing, compiles a unique figure that allows for indexing a given food product according to its degree of nutritional unbalance. (See, for example, The Balanced Nutrition Index™ database.)
Interpreting the BNI™
The BNI™ code
Oat breakfast cereal Corn chips Typical chocolate bar BNI™ 8.70c BNI™ 49.44f BNI™ 126.94-fb (Source: The Balanced Nutrition Index™ database)
The BNI™ appears as a numerical figure indicating relative degree of nutritional unbalance, and a trailing letter code indicating the main nutritional bias in the food:
- Balanced foods show an index of 'zero' and no trailing letter code (ie, BNI™ 0.0).
- Unbalanced foods show an index greater than 'zero' whereby the greater the numerical index the more unbalance the food is.
- The trailing letter, whenever used, identifies the most unbalanced macronutrient in the food. The possible trailing letters are the following:
|p||excess of protein|
|-p||deficiency in protein|
|c||excess of carbohydrate|
|-c||deficiency in carbohydrate|
|s||excess of sugar|
|f||excess of fat|
|-f||deficiency in fat|
|sf||excess of saturated fat|
|fb||excess of fiber|
|-fb||deficiency in fiber|
|na||excess of sodium|
The BNI™ scale (2012)
The BNI™ is sensitive enough as for allowing 'indexing' food products according to their nutritional balance6. However, it provides little guidance regarding how to interpret the resulting scale. Since October 2012, the following 'qualitative' interpretation is used7:
|> 0||slightly unbalanced|
|≥ 10||moderately unbalanced|
|≥ 20||highly unbalanced|
|≥ 30||extremely unbalanced|
Types of BNI™
The BNI technology results in different indexes, and one needs to be careful when using the technology so as for not creating confusion:
- The foodBNI™ is the BNI of foodstuff as 'stand-alone' products (for example, that of a particular brand and make of potato chips). Such foodBNI can be used in data analyses, and will provide information about the group of foods being analysed (eg, about the average nutritional balance of all potato chips, irrespective of brand and make). The 'foodBNI' index is, thus, useful for describing groups of similar food products and for identifying the best products within such groups.
- The dietBNI™ is the BNI of foodstuff when combined into meals (which combine different ingredients at once) and diets (which combine diverse meals over time). The dietBNI™ results from the combination of different foods in variable proportions and, thus, cannot be predicted from the particular BNI of individual foods (eg, eating potato chips from different brands and flavors, something not uncommon in a party, may result in a more balanced 'meal' than the average foodBNI of the potato chip products would suggest). The 'dietBNI' index is more work-intensive but is useful for describing particular meals and diets as well as for the simulating hypothetical diets.
The calculation of both indexes, 'foodBNI' and 'dietBNI', is similar, the only difference being that the former is more appropriate when describing stand-alone foodstuff while the latter is more appropriate when assessing the combination of several foods into a meal or diet. When used without qualification, the concept of 'BNI' alone normally refers to 'foodBNI' (unless otherwise specified).
Related nutrition indexes are similar to the 'BNI™', the only difference being that they are based on different RDIs (Perezgonzalez, 2011a2). In order to prevent confusion, the concept of BNI™ is restricted to a particular set of RDIs, and alternative names are used for the other indexes:
- BNI uses average RDIs and is the main concept when referring to nutritional balance.
- WHO is the nutritional balance of foods when using WHO's (the World Health Organization) and FAO's (the Food and Agricultural Organization) RDIs.
- US/CAN is the nutritional balance of foods when using USA's and Canada's RDIs.
- AUS/NZ is the nutritional balance of foods when using Australia's and New Zealand's RDIs.
- UK is the nutritional balance of foods when using UK's RDIs.
Jose D PEREZGONZALEZ (2012). Massey University, Turitea Campus, Private Bag 11-222, Palmerston North 4442, New Zealand. (JDPerezgonzalez).
Want to know more?
- Balanced nutrition
- This Wiki of Science page deals with the meaning of balanced nutrition and how to differentiate it from related concepts, such as a balanced diet, a varied diet and a healthy diet.
- The Balanced Nutrition Index™
- You can find further information in the Balanced Nutrition Index™ database or the Balanced Nutrition Index™ journal.