Accessibility navigation

Mechanistic evidence underpinning dietary policy: bringing the jigsaw pieces together?

Williams, C. M. (2023) Mechanistic evidence underpinning dietary policy: bringing the jigsaw pieces together? Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 82 (2). pp. 1-8. ISSN 1475-2719

Text (Open access) - Published Version
· Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.
· Please see our End User Agreement before downloading.


It is advisable to refer to the publisher's version if you intend to cite from this work. See Guidance on citing.

To link to this item DOI: 10.1017/S0029665122002750


Observational research, mainly prospective cohort studies (PCS), has represented a long-standing challenge for those attempting to draw up consistent policy recommendations in the area of diet and health. This has been due to the inherent limitations in ascribing causality from observed associations due to problems of confounding of the findings and publication and citation bias. Developments in nutritional epidemiology research over the past 20–30 years have enabled causal criteria to be derived from observational studies and the totality of the primary literature to be reviewed objectively, reducing previous focus on narrative accounts of individual studies. The gold standard approach to assessing causal relationships is via randomised controlled trials (RCT), but neither RCT nor PCS provide direct evidence for biological plausibility, which is a key criterion for assessing causality. Although extensive mechanistic data are available in the literature, a systematic approach to select and assess quality and relevance of published studies has not been available. This limits their use in the development of diet and health policy. Recent studies have investigated a proposed two-step framework and novel methodologies for integrating heterogeneous data from cell, animal and human studies. Pilot and feasibility studies have shown this to be a useful novel approach to studies of diet and cancer, but further refinements are required, including development of appropriate quality criteria which are less dependent on RCT designs. Future studies are needed to fully verify the approach and its potential for use in other diet–disease relationships.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Agriculture, Policy and Development > Department of Animal Sciences
ID Code:108962
Publisher:Cambridge University Press


Downloads per month over past year

University Staff: Request a correction | Centaur Editors: Update this record

Page navigation