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Medicine LibreTexts

1: Nutrition Basics

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  • The field of nutrition is dynamic. This means that our understanding and practices are constantly changing and being updated. Some of nutrition’s dynamic nature may be due to the fact that nutrition, as a discipline, is relatively young (many vitamins weren't isolated until the 1930s) compared to many other scientific fields. New research is always being conducted and the findings are continuously being reported to the public. With so much information, discernment must be exercised. In order to interpret these new findings, you need to understand how the research was conducted and the nutrition research hierarchy. Everyone eats, so people are going to face nutrition choices and questions on a daily basis. This section will provide you with an integrated understanding of the different forms of nutrition research and how to evaluate them relative to one another.

    • 1.1: The Basics of Nutrition
      Nutrition can be defined as the science of the action of food, beverages, and their components in biological systems. A nutrient is a compound that provides a needed function in the body. Nutrients can be further classified based on the amount needed in the body. Macronutrients: nutrients needed in larger amounts Micronutrients: nutrients needed in smaller amounts (but still important)
    • 1.2: Epidemiology
      Epidemiology is defined as the study of human populations. These studies often investigate the relationship between dietary consumption and disease development. There are three main types of epidemiological studies: cross-sectional, case-control, and prospective cohort studies.
    • 1.3: In Vitro and Animal Studies
      The simplest form of nutrition research is an in vitro study. In vitro means "within glass", so these methods are performed within flasks, dishes, plates, and test tubes, although most of these are no longer glass (mostly plastic now). These studies are performed outside of a living organism, so the results need to be interpreted with this fact in mind.  One common form of in vitro research is cell culture. This involves growing cells in flasks and dishes.
    • 1.5: Nutrition Research Statistics
      One important aspect in being able to interpret research is to have a basic understanding of statistical significance. Statistical significance means that there is sufficient statistical evidence to suggest that the results are most likely not due to chance.
    • 1.6: Publishing Research
    • 1.7: Interpreting Research
      Now that you are familiar with the different forms of nutrition research, the next step is understanding how to interpret and synthesize the information. To synthesize information on a certain topic, the two most popular methods are meta-analyses and systematic literature reviews. While there are differences between these two methods, they are similar overall in that they aim to draw a conclusion from the body of research evidence rather than from one study.

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