Submitted to: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/18/2006
Publication Date: 6/8/2007
Citation: Balk, E., Horsley, T.A., Newberry, S.J., Lichtenstein, A.H., Yelley, E.A., Schachter, H.M., Moher, D., Maclean, C.H., Lau, J. 2007. A collaborative effort to apply the evidence-based review process to the field of nutrition: Challenges, benefits and lessons learned. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 85: 1448-56. Interpretive Summary: Evidence-based systematic reviews are conducted to gain an unbiased assessment of the state of the science within a certain area. They have been applied extensively to the field of nutrition, yet there is little consensus about the optimal way to conduct the reviews, particularly among studies using different study designs, outcome measures and populations with different background diets and characteristics. Through a structured, but flexible process, three evidence-based practice centers in the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Program successfully collaborated to systematically review the health effects of n-3 (or omega-3) fatty acids across a wide range of clinical conditions, and produced 11 reports on a wide range of n-3 fatty acid related topics. This process identified challenges and problems in evaluating the health effects of n-3 fatty acid consumption, highlighted challenges to reviewing the human nutrition literature, and yielded recommendations for future research. The article summarized the goals of these systematic reviews, the processes that were used, the benefits and limitations of the collaboration, and the conclusions drawn from the reviews, including recommendations for future research.
Technical Abstract: Evidence-based systematic reviews on dietary assessment and nutritional interventions are becoming increasingly common, but are relatively new compared to other applications. Concerns remain that systematic reviews of nutrition topics pose several unique challenges. Such challenges are illuminated in our account of a successful collaboration among three evidence-based centers in the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Program that systematically reviewed the health effects of a common nutrient, n-3 (or omega-3) fatty acids, across a wide range of clinical conditions. This process identified challenges and problems associated with evaluation of n-3 fatty acid consumption health effects, highlighted challenges to reviewing the human nutrition literature, and yielded recommendations for future research. Ultimately, despite trials, this structured, yet flexible process created an important resource to enhance understanding of the current state of nutrition science among nutrition and dietetics researchers, clinical dietitians and nutritionists, clinicians and the general public.