Uncertainty in human nutrition research

Given the important role that nutritional science plays in global food and health policy, some of the key uncertainties in nutrition research that policy makers should take into consideration are outlined here.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: A framework for integrating meal-based patterns with metabolomic profile.

Change history

  • 11 May 2020

    An amendment to this paper has been published and can be accessed via a link at the top of the paper.


  1. 1.

    Allison, D. B., Pavela, G. & Oransky, I. Am. Sci. 106, 84–87 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Reproducibility and Replicability in Science (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, 2019).

  3. 3.

    Ejima, K. et al. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 110, 1231–1239 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Freedman, L. S. et al. Am. J. Epidemiol. 187, 2227–2232 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Banna, J. C., McCrory, M. A., Fialkowski, M. K. & Boushey, C. Front. Nutr. 4, 45 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Gilsenan, M. B., Thompson, R. L., Lambe, J. & Gibney, M. J. Food Addit. Contam. 20, 61–72 (2003).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Dhurandhar, N. V. et al. Int. J. Obes. 39, 1109–1113 (2015).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Subar, A. F. et al. J. Nutr. 145, 2639–2645 (2015).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Murillo, A. L. et al. Obesity 27, 489–495 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Keogh, R. H. & White, I. R. Stat. Med. 33, 2137–2155 (2014).

    MathSciNet  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Prentice, R. L. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 108, 433–434 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Guasch-Ferré, M., Bhupathiraju, S. N. & Hu, F. B. Clin. Chem. 64, 82–98 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Maruvada, P. et al. Adv. Nutr. 11, 200–215 (2019).

    Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Kearney, J. M., Hulshof, K. F. & Gibney, M. J. Public Health Nutr. 4, 693–698 (2001).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Redesigning the Process for Establishing the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, 2017).

  16. 16.

    Harris, W. S. et al. Nutr. Res. 36, 65–71 (2016).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Steegen, S. et al. Perspec. Psychol. Sci. 11, 702–712 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Shaw, P. A. et al. Stat. Med. 35, 3883–3888 (2016).

    MathSciNet  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Patel, C. J. & Manrai, A. K. Pac. Symp. Biocomput. 20, 231–242 (2015).

    PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Barabási, A.-L., Menichetti, G. & Loscalzo, J. Nat. Food 1, 33–37 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Potischman, N. & Weed, D. L. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 69, 1309–1314 (1999).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Vinay, P. et al. Rev. J. Clin. Epidemiol. 66, 361–366 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Yao, Y. et al. Int. J. Clin. Exp. Med. 8, 14977–14984 (2015).

    CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Manousaki, D. et al. Circ. Cardiovasc. Genet. 9, 349–356 (2016).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Moberg, J. et al. Health Res. Policy Syst. 16, 45 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Mike Gibney.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

M.G. reports fees from Nestle, Mondelez, Cereal Partners Worldwide and from CAOBISCO, Europe. He receives an honorarium for work as academic editor from the American Society for Nutrition. J.D. reports personal fees from service on scientific advisory boards on topics outside of the submitted work on McCormick Spice, the Mushroom Council, Motif Foodworks, Conagra Foods (until 2018), Gerber/Nestle (until 2019) and Bay State Milling (until 2015), as editor of Nutrition Today, and from stock in several food and drug companies. She is a non-paid advisor to 2 technical committees at ILSI North America. D.A. has received personal payments or promises for same from: American Society for Nutrition; Biofortis; Frontiers Publishing; IKEA; Indiana University; Laura and John Arnold Foundation; Law Offices of Ronald Marron; MD Anderson Cancer Center; National Academy of Sciences; National Institutes of Health (NIH); Nestlé; Paul Hastings, LLP; Texas A&M University; The Obesity Society; Tomasik, Kotin & Kasserman LLC; University of Miami. He receives editorial honoraria from the American Society for Nutrition and the Obesity Society. Donations to a foundation have been made on his behalf by the Northarvest Bean Growers Association and the United Soy Bean Board. He is an unpaid member of the International Life Sciences Institute North America Board of Trustees. His institution, Indiana University, has received funds to support his research or educational activities from: USDA; NIH; US National Science Foundation; Alliance for Potato Research and Education; Dairy Management Institute; Herbalife; Laura and John Arnold Foundation. D.B. is an advisor to the International Council on Amino Acid Science, whose members include companies that produce and market amino acids for medical, biological, and industrial purposes. He provides the Council with advice on scientific priorities, assistance in organizing scientific symposia on amino acids, and evaluation of competitive applications for research funding. Other than reimbursement for travel expenses, he accepts no compensation for his advisory role. In the past year, he has consulted for, and received honoraria from, Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals; Novartis Pharmaceuticals; Nestlé SA; Ajinomoto Co., Inc.; Soremartec Italia S.r.l.; the CrossFit Foundation; Intertek Scientific and Regulatory Consultancy Services; Nutritional Growth Solutions; the Dairy Management Institute; and the Lorenzini Foundation. The majority of his consulting fees are donated to charity. He does not own stock in, or have other ownership interests in, any of the companies to which he provides scientific advice or in any nutrition company other than those companies whose stock is held by various mutual fund retirement accounts.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Gibney, M., Allison, D., Bier, D. et al. Uncertainty in human nutrition research. Nat Food 1, 247–249 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43016-020-0073-2

Download citation