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Adv Nutr. 2014 Sep;5(5):534-6.

History and impact of nutritional epidemiology.


The real and important role of epidemiology was discussed, noting heretofore unknown associations that led to improved understanding of the cause and prevention of individual nutritional deficiencies. However, epidemiology has been less successful in linking individual nutrients to the cause of chronic diseases, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. Dietary changes, such as decreasing caloric intake to prevent cancer and the Mediterranean diet to prevent diabetes, were confirmed as successful approaches to modifying the incidence of chronic diseases. The role of the epidemiologist was confirmed as a collaborator, not an isolated expert of last resort. The challenge for the future is to decide which epidemiologic methods and study designs are most useful in studying chronic disease, then to determine which associations and the hypotheses derived from them are especially strong and worthy of pursuit, and finally to design randomized studies that are feasible, affordable, and likely to result in confirmation or refutation of these hypotheses.

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