Food Composition Databases

Food Composition Databases are comprehensive collections of data providing detailed information about the nutritional composition of various foods.

What is a food composition database?

Food Composition Databases are extensive collections comprising hundreds to thousands of measurements that detail the nutritional content of foods. These measurements are standardized in grams (g), milligrams (mg), and micrograms (µg), per 100 grams of food, establishing an international benchmark for nutritional comparison. These databases result from collaborative efforts among governments, universities, research institutions, and the scientific community. They involve the meticulous processes of measuring, gathering, correlating, and analyzing data to accurately reflect the nutrient concentration in different foods. The data derived from these databases is fundamental to understanding the nutrient composition of food. However, the process of compiling this data is both extensive and complex, involving considerable resources and expertise.

What methods are used to gather data for food composition databases?

There are two methods of data compilation for databases: direct and indirect. The direct method involves conducting specific analyses to generate data exclusively for the database in question. This process typically includes controlled procedures for sampling, analysis, and quality assurance to ensure that the data collected is directly relevant and tailored to the database's requirements.

On the other hand, the indirect method relies on existing data sources. This approach includes gathering data from published literature, unpublished laboratory reports, other databases, or various external documents. The data collected through this method may not be originally intended for the specific database being compiled and often involves collating and adapting information from these varied sources.

What food composition data compilation method does your company use?

The Nutrient Density Chart™ employs the indirect method of food composition database compilation. This method involves gathering data from existing sources like published literature, nutritional studies, and other comprehensive databases, rather than conducting direct analyses of the food items.

Why do different food databases show different measurements for the same food?

Food composition databases face limitations primarily due to the inherent natural variability in foods, which means that measurements of nutrients in 100 grams of a particular food item will not always be consistent. Additionally, factors like soil quality and environmental conditions vary significantly around the world, leading to different levels of nutrients in the same food grown in different regions. Therefore, relying on a single measurement for each nutrient in a food item does not provide a comprehensive picture. To address this, the best approach is to gather data from multiple reliable food composition databases and use the average of the most reliable sources. This method helps in getting a more accurate and representative understanding of the nutrient content in foods, taking into account the diverse conditions under which they are grown and produced.

What are the methods used to measure nutrients per 100 grams of food?

Nutrient analysis in foods is complex due to the diverse nature of food components and their interactions. Different nutrients require specific analytical methods for accurate measurement. For example, water content is measured using techniques like air or freeze-drying, while proteins often use methods like the Kjeldahl or Dumas methods. Lipid analysis might involve Soxhlet extraction followed by Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS). Carbohydrates, ranging from simple sugars to complex polysaccharides, need methods that can distinguish and quantify these forms. Vitamins and bioactive compounds are typically analyzed with advanced techniques like High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) and Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS). Minerals and trace elements are often measured using Atomic Absorption Spectrometry (AAS) or Plasma Emission Spectrometry. Energy content is determined through calorimetry and the application of Atwater factors. This variety in methodologies underscores the intricate nature of food composition analysis.