Hardly a day goes by without media headlines discussing a new approach to weight loss or a major discovery that will prevent a chronic disease. Headlines implying that eating a particular food could prolong life or drastically cut disease risk seem all too common. Yet, in many cases, these claims for efficacy of certain nutrients in treating or preventing disease are based on limited scientific evaluation.
With this in mind, the Trustees of the Academy of Nutrition Sciences agreed that action is required to reduce levels of misinformation about nutrition and health, and to improve understanding of how evidence in nutrition is scrutinised to avoid bias in the way in which evidence is evaluated to formulate dietary recommendations.
This paper, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, is the first report in a series of three, which describe the nature of the scientific evidence and frameworks that underpin nutrition recommendations for health, from the Academy of Nutrition Sciences. This position paper was developed in 2020 by a working group led by Professor Christine Williams, Emeritus Professor of Human Nutrition at the University of Reading, and trustee of the Academy. The paper deals with the approach of expert groups to investigate the links between diet and non-communicable diseases and addresses some of the challenges in the current evidence-base.
The Academy of Nutrition Sciences (ANS) was formed in 2019 as a joint initiative between the Association for Nutrition, the British Dietetic Association, the British Nutrition Foundation and the Nutrition Society. The objective of the ANS is to improve public health and wellbeing by supporting excellence in research, education and associated activities to advance the knowledge and application of evidence-based nutrition science.
A series of position papers will be published to consider the nature of the evidence base in specific areas of nutrition and health. The first of these, which has recently been published (Williams et al. 2020), addresses the evidence base underpinning dietary advice for populations for the prevention of non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. The position paper summarises the nature of the evidence base and the systematic processes used by expert panels to ensure rigour, relevance and consistency is brought to their conclusions. It also addresses some of the challenges inherent in studying diet-disease relationships and lessons learned over the past 45 years of evidence-based policy-making in dietary prevention of non-communicable diseases.
Williams, C., Ashwell, M., Prentice, A., Hickson, M., & Stanner, S. (2020). Nature of the evidence base and frameworks underpinning dietary recommendations for prevention of non-communicable diseases: A position paper from the Academy of Nutrition Sciences. British Journal of Nutrition, 1-30. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0007114520005000