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February 13, 2018

Disclosures in Nutrition Research: Why It Is Different

Author Affiliations
  • 1Stanford Prevention Research Center, Department of Medicine and Departments of Health Research and Policy, Biomedical Data Science, and Statistics, and Meta-Research Innovation Center at Stanford (METRICS), Stanford University, Stanford, California
  • 2Stanford Prevention Research Center, Stanford University, Stanford, California
  • 3Meta-Research Innovation Center at Stanford (METRICS), Stanford University, Stanford, California
JAMA. 2018;319(6):547-548. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.18571

Nutrition research is among the most contentious fields of science. Although the totality of an individual’s diet has important effects on health, most nutrients and foods individually have ambiguously tiny (or nonexistent) effects.1 Substantial reliance on observational data for which causal inference is notoriously difficult also limits the clarifying ability of nutrition science. When the data are not clear, opinions and conflicts of interest both financial and nonfinancial may influence research articles, editorials, guidelines, and laws.2 Therefore, disclosure policies are an important safeguard to help identify potential bias. In this Viewpoint, we contend that current norms for disclosure in nutrition science are inadequate and propose that greater transparency is needed, including a broader definition of what constitutes disclosure-worthy information.

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