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August 12, 2019

Improving the Quality of Dietary Research

Author Affiliations
  • 1New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center, Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 2Metabolism and Body Composition Laboratory, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
JAMA. Published online August 12, 2019. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.11169

Compared with pharmaceutical research, studies evaluating diet or dietary interventions for chronic diseases like obesity (to be distinguished from micronutrient deficiency syndromes like scurvy or rickets) have far greater challenges in terms of consistency, quality control, confounding, and interpretation. For instance, a placebo for an active drug can be easily prepared, but dietary assignment can rarely be truly masked. Moreover, diet is highly heterogeneous, with myriad interacting and potentially confounding factors. If an intervention increases intake from one food category, participants may well eat less from other food categories.

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    1 Comment for this article
    Don't Forget Enteral Nutrition
    Carlo Pedrolli, M.D. | S. Chiara Hospital, Clinical Nutrition Unit , Trento, Itali
    I read with much interest this paper.

    I would suggest to add a proposal to improve quality of dietary research.

    We have thousands of patients fed by enteral nutrition in which the variability of nutrients is very little; in a way there are many patients in whom we know exactly how many calories we give, how many proteins, how many carbohydrates, how much fiber and how many micronutrients we give as nutritional intake and it is possible to calculate exactly how much they eat in a day.

    I think we use this information too infrequently in research
    and I would advise to do it to enhance the quality of dietary research; do you agree?