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USDA’s Nutrition Evidence Library: Answering Food and Nutrition Questions with Systematic Reviews

The USDA Nutrition Evidence Library specializes in systematic reviews of research on food and nutrition, providing a scientific foundation for evidence-based decisions by federal policymakers and program managers.

The USDA Nutrition Evidence Library specializes in systematic reviews of research on food and nutrition, providing a scientific foundation for evidence-based decisions by federal policymakers and program managers.

During the month of April we will take a closer look at USDA’s Groundbreaking Research for a Revitalized Rural America, highlighting ways USDA researchers are improving the lives of Americans in ways you might never imagine, such as laying the foundation for evidence-based food and nutrition policies and programs by compiling and reviewing the best available nutrition research.

Ever wonder what the science says about the foods we eat, the beverages we drink, and our health? Or whether there is evidence to show how best to educate kids about a healthy diet?

If so, check out the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Nutrition Evidence Library (NEL). The NEL specializes in doing systematic reviews, or pulling together the best available research to answer important food and nutrition-related questions. These reviews provide the scientific foundation that allows Federal policies and programs to be based on the strongest available evidence. Using this evidence-based approach also helps USDA comply with the Data Quality Act, which states that Federal agencies must ensure the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of the information used to form Federal guidance.

The NEL works with a group of scientific experts, from academia and the Federal government, to conduct systematic reviews, and uses state-of-the-art methods to review, evaluate, and synthesize food and nutrition research. The NEL process has six steps:

  • Step 1: Develop systematic review questions
  • Step 2: Search, screen, and select studies to review
  • Step 3: Extract data and assess the risk of bias of the research
  • Step 4: Describe and synthesize the evidence
  • Step 5: Develop conclusion statements and grade the evidence
  • Step 6: Identify research recommendations

USDA’s Nutrition Evidence Library provides a transparent, objective scientific foundation for nutrition-related policies and programs. NEL reviews serve as a key resource for Federal policy-makers and program leaders, as well as the non-government stakeholders, such as researchers, public health nutritionists, and industry. These reviews provide the evidence-based for Federal policies and programs, including the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, as well as nutrition education, food assistance, and communication programs. NEL’s latest project was a series of systematic reviews looking at the relationship between dietary patterns and health (body weight, heart disease, and diabetes). These reviews focused on the diet as a whole, rather than individual foods and nutrients, because emerging research has suggested that the overall diet may be more powerful than the sum of its parts.

For more information about the NEL, and to see all the details from NEL’s systematic reviews on a wide range of food and nutrition-related topics visit www.NEL.gov.

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