Towards a Water-Energy-Food (WEF) nexus index: A review of nutrient profile models as a fundamental pillar of food and nutrition security

Sci Total Environ. 2021 Oct 1:789:147936. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.147936. Epub 2021 May 21.


The Water-Energy-Food (WEF) nexus approach should be promoted as a tool for sustainable management of resources through the interconnection of these three fundamental pillars. Particularly, food security must ensure healthy and balanced diets for everyone, but selecting individual indicators to assess all slants covered by this element is not an easy task. Hence, the objective of this paper is two-fold, to review nutrient profiling (NP) models that allow to categorize foods and evaluate diets based on their nutritional quality, and to choose the most appropriate model to be used within a WEF nexus index. To address this issue, a total of 159 documents were assessed, appraising the geographic distribution, and time evolution of the publications, as well as the characteristics and potential applications of the NP systems. The review concludes that the NRF9.3. model is the most liable option to be used in a WEF nexus index, presenting the best characteristics by means of the definition of scores and thresholds, and the use of an 'across-the-board' criteria and a reference quantity of 100 kcal, alongside offering higher ability to assess diets and foods than the other competitive model (HEI) through the evaluation of nutrients to encourage instead of foods. A secondary outcome of the review is the identification of the NP models as a useful tool to enable institutions with information to establish policies in the field of public health and facilitating the decision-making process according to the current healthy claims.

Keywords: Diet quality; Dietary assessment; Food analysis; Nutrition value; Public health; Sustainability.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diet
  • Food
  • Food Supply*
  • Nutrients
  • Nutritional Status
  • Nutritive Value
  • Water*


  • Water