NCC News Bite | October 2023


This edition contains the following articles:

HEI-2020 and HEI-Toddlers-2020


Now that the Healthy Eating Index-2020 (HEI-2020) is available, you may be interested in generating HEI 2020 scores for dietary intake data and/or menus in NDSR.  Fortunately, this is possible using existing NDSR output files because the HEI 2020 has the same index components and scoring criteria as the HEI 2015.  To elaborate, the working group tasked with updating the HEI to align with the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans determined that no changes to the index were required aside from updating the name to ‘HEI 2020’.  Therefore, you can use the HEI 2015 output files from NDSR to generate the scores, as they will be equivalent to the HEI 2020 scores. 


The new Healthy Eating Index-Toddlers-2020 (HEI-Toddlers-2020) has the same index components as the HEI-2020 for children and adults 2 years of age and above, but the standards for calculating the HEI index component scores are different for the Toddler HEI. Therefore, you should not use the index component scores or total scores in the NDSR HEI 2015 output files.  However, you can use the contributing dietary constituents (e.g., ounce equivalents of whole grains, cup equivalents of dairy, etc.) found in the HEI output files to calculate component and total HEI-Toddlers-2020 scores.  Visit our website for more information on how to use NDSR to generate HEI scores.  


Have You Seen Negative Nutrient Values in Your Output Files?


Occasionally we receive questions about negative nutrient values in NDSR output files, so this article aims to share some information about where you may find negative nutrient values and why. 


If you look in output file 01 (component/ingredient file), it is not uncommon to see negative nutrient values for components such as water, sodium, or potassium.  This is to be expected, as we may subtract these components when making formulations for multi-ingredients foods in the database.  For example, when making a fast food hamburger to match the nutrient values provided by the restaurant, we may add or subtract sodium.  You may also see negative nutrient values in file 01 if you have entered a negative amount in the record, or if you have entered a User Recipe that includes a negative amount (i.e. subtraction of salt or water). 


Negative nutrient values in file 02 (food file) are less common, but possible.  They are most likely due to an error made in creating a user recipe or a negative amount entered in the record.  If you enter a User Recipe that has a net negative nutrient value into a record, then you will see that negative nutrient value in file 02.  You can correct this by correcting the user recipe and entering the corrected user recipe into the record in place of the old one.  If you enter a negative amount for a food in a record, you will see the corresponding nutrients as negatives in file 02.  This could be due to an error in data entry, or it could be intentional and may not need to be corrected.  For example, if your study is looking at daily nutrient totals, and you used a negative amount to subtract lettuce from an NDSR sandwich that includes lettuce, then your daily totals would be correct and you would not need to make any changes. Another possibility is that you used the View Ingredient feature and pasted the ingredients of a mixed dish into an assembled food.  If the formulation you pasted included a negative amount (that would typically only be seen in file 01), it will now be present in file 02 because it is part of the assembled food.  You will have to determine on a case by case basis if the negative value in the assembled food is correct, depending on the changes you made to the ingredients.  If you see negative nutrient values in file 02 that are not due to a user recipe with negative nutrient value or a negative amount entered into the food tab, feel free to contact us.  In extremely rare cases, a negative value in file 02 could occur when restoring a dietary intake record from an older version of NDSR.  Contact with questions.


NCC: Small But Mighty


Many of the largest technology companies created their first successful products with teams of fewer than 10 people. The same is true for the Nutrition Coordinating Center. We have a small but mighty staff that maintains and updates the NDSR software and NCC Food and Nutrient database. Our team consists of 4 database scientists, 1 programmer, and 2 specialists providing user support and training to NDSR clients. Most members of the team wear multiple hats and every individual plays an important role in accomplishing NCC’s mission. NCC’s work is led by a small leadership team, including a part-time Director, a part-time Associate Director, and a Director of Operations.


In addition, we have a group of part-time and hourly employees, including undergraduate and graduate students, that collects and processes dietary recalls and food records for researchers. 


Could NCC do better if we had more staff? Yes! We are proud of what we have accomplished as a small team, but with a larger database scientist team we could further expand foods and nutrients in the NCC Food and Nutrient Database and keep values more up-to-date with the marketplace. Also, having a single programmer responsible for maintaining and updating NDSR and the in-house software used for maintaining and expanding the NCC Database is precarious and limiting. On an ongoing basis we are working to be in a financial position that allows us to expand our team in these critical areas.


A small team of A+ players can run circles around a giant team of B and C players – Steve Jobs  


Pictured Below: NCC Team Photo taken August 2023

Who Funds NCC?


Nutrition Coordinating Center activities are primarily supported through the licensing and annual support fees paid by those using NDSR. Licensing of NCC Food and Nutrient database files to the scientific community and app developers is another major source of funds.


In addition, NCC receives revenue for providing NDSR-related support services, including the collection of 24-hour dietary recalls over the telephone and entry of food records and menus into NDSR. This work is carried out to support researchers who wish to outsource this work to us.


Occasionally NCC receives a grant or contract to support the addition of a specific nutrient or food component to the NCC Food and Nutrition Database. For example, gluten was added to our database thanks to funding from the American Gastroenterological Association Research Foundation through a partnership with Columbia University, and lignans was added thanks to NIH funding through a partnership with the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health.


Publications directly related to the NCC Food and Nutrient Database are funded through internal University of Minnesota Nutrition Coordinating Center funds, unless otherwise stated in the publication acknowledgements.   


Thank You for Completing the Client Survey!


Many thanks to all of you who completed the client survey in August!  Your input helps us improve NDSR and the NCC Food and Nutrient Database.  In fact, in response to what we learned from the survey our database scientist team is already busy making related improvements to the database for NDSR 2024. For example, ‘air frying’ (a type of convection cooking) is being added to the ‘baked or microwaved’ food preparation option in NDSR in response to what we learned from the survey.


You don’t have to wait for the next survey to provide feedback or request changes or improvements.  Reach out to anytime with your suggestions.