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Scientific Method

The scientific method offers a systematic, unbiased approach to evaluating the relationships among food, nutrients, and health.


Scientific Method Order

Observation --> Hypothesis --> Experiment --> Theory


What makes a good experiment?

(a) quantifiable data, (b) an appropriate experimental population, (c) appropriate number of subjects, (d) suitable study duration, (e) statistical analysis of results, and (f) publication after a peer-review process.


Quantifiable Data

This means that the data can be measured in a way that provides numerical results and uses methods that can be repeated by others.



Indicators of future disease development.


Appropriate Experimental Population

For an experiment to produce useful results, the right experimental population must be studied.


Appropriate Number of Subjects

The number of subjects included in a study is also important. Statistical methods are used to determine how many subjects are needed to demonstrate the effect of the experimental treatment. The number of subjects will depend on the type of study and the effect being tested.


Suitable Study Duration

It is important for scientists to design their study to last long enough to see an effect.


Statistical Analysis of Results

Statistical methods are essential for the analysis of the results.


Publication of Results After Peer Review

The sharing of experimental results is essential to the progress of science, so after completing an experiment, scientists publish their results in a scientific journal.



This study of diet, health, and disease patterns


Observational studies

The dietary intake and the health of the population being studied are being observed.


Confounding factors

Factors associated with both the dietary intake of interest and the disease


Prospective cohort study

The dietary intake of a healthy population is recorded and the health of this population is followed for a number of years, that is, it is prospective or moving forward in time.


Case-Control Studies

Compare individuals with a particular condition to similar individuals without the condition.


Human Intervention Trials or Studies

Also called clinical trial or clinical studies. Unlike the observational study, this type of experiment actively intervenes in the lives of a population and examines the effect of this intervention.


Laboratory Study

Laboratory studies are conducted in research facilities such as hospitals and universities. They are used to learn more about how nutrients function and to evaluate the relationships among nutrient intake, levels of nutrients in the body, and health. They may study nutrient requirements and functions in whole organisms—either humans or animals—or they may focus on nutrient functions at the cellular, biochemical, or molecular levels.


Depletion-repletion studies

A classic method for studying the functions of nutrients and estimating the requirement for a particular nutrient. This type of study involves depleting a nutrient by feeding experimental subjects a diet devoid of that nutrient. After a period of time, if the nutrient is essential, symptoms of a deficiency will develop. The symptoms provide information on how the nutrient functions in the body. The nutrient is then added back to the diet, or repleted, until the symptoms are reversed.


Balance Study

Comparing a nutrient with its excretion


What 5 questions should be asked before believing a claim?

1. Does this Information make sense?2. Where did the information come from?3. Is the Information Based on Well-Designed, Accurately Interpreted Research Studies?4. Who Stands to Benefit?5. Has it stood the test of time?