Nutrition Science

Nutrition research is the underpinning of our programs and outreach. ENC is dedicated to providing accurate and up-to-date information on eggs, nutrition and health. Below is a collection of both ENC-funded research and relevant studies.

To learn more about our competitive research program, click here.

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Diet Quality Characterized in 187 Countries

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New global data show that while consumption of “healthy” food items increased in many countries, consumption of “unhealthy” items worsened across the world.

A study in The Lancet Global Health examined 20-year trends in diet patterns from around the world based on over 300 diet surveys estimated to represent 89% of adults worldwide (Imamura, 2015). The Global Burden of Diseases Nutrition and Chronic Diseases Expert Group co-author Dr. Dariush Mazaffarian noted the importance of examining “healthy” food patterns separately from “unhealthy” food items, in order to fully inform policies and priorities (online interview).

In examining diets, the research team noted that ‘’national diet quality based on healthy versus unhealthy items was largely masked when only overall diet patterns were considered.”   Therefore, diet trends were characterized separately for 10 “healthy” items, for 7 “unhealthy” items, and then a combined pattern for all 17 items.

The “healthy” pattern scored consumption of: fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, whole grains, milk, total polyunsaturated fatty acids, fish, plant omega-3s and dietary fiber.

The “unhealthy” pattern scored consumption of: unprocessed red meats, processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages, saturated fat, trans fat, dietary cholesterol, and sodium.

In light of the recent acknowledgement by the US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC, 2015) that scientific evidence has evolved to the point in which dietary cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption, it would be informative to know whether results from this global diet study change if dietary cholesterol is removed from the “unhealthy” pattern score.

Results of the current study showed:

“[O]lder adults had better dietary patterns than did younger adults…women also had better dietary patterns than men…”

 “Higher national income was associated with better quality for the healthy dietary pattern…and with much worse quality for the unhealthy dietary pattern.”

In concluding remarks, the authors noted

“Increases in unhealthy patterns are outpacing increases in healthy patterns in most world regions. In view of the disease burden associated with suboptimum diet quality, these findings emphasise the need to better elucidate the societal, policy, and food industry determinants of these differences and trends, and to implement policies to address these inequities and improve diet quality globally.”

This study illustrates the importance of considering patterns of foods consumed rather than overall single diet quality scores, single food approaches, or single nutrient assessments. That’s good advice when considering diet globally, locally, and also individually. A summary article and global map of diet quality is available at the Medical Research Council.

References Citations

F Imamura, R Micha, S Khatibzadeh, S Fahimi, P Shi, J Powles, D Mozaffarian, on behalf of the Global Burden of Diseases Nutrition and Chronic Diseases Expert Group (NutriCoDE). “Dietary quality among men and women in 187 countries in 1990 and 2010: a systematic assessment.” The Lancet Global Health. March 2015. (3):e132-e142.

Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. February 2015.

photo2-150x150 Barbara Lyle, Ph.D. is President of B Lyle, Inc. a nutrition consulting and innovation firm, and guest blogger for the Egg Nutrition Center.


Views expressed by the author may not be those of the Egg Nutrition Center.

Nutrition Science for Policy Making

Young student woman medical / scientific researcher / doctor looking at a test tube of liquid in science laboratory, blood test

Nutrition research informed by policy needs, will have greater impact.

Nutrition and diet policies, like the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, are based on a body of scientific evidence built from many individual research studies. In a commentary in The Lancet, Drs. Kelly Brownell, from Duke University, and Christina Robert, from Harvard University, advocate for enhancing links between science and policy (Brownell, 2015) citing that “only a small proportion of research has the policy impact it might have.”

“We define strategic science as research designed to address gaps in knowledge important to policy decisions, derived from the reciprocal flow of information between researchers and policy makers…”

They proposed a four-step, reciprocal model to impactful science.

  1. “Identify change agents and create reciprocal information flow between researchers and these actors”
  1. “[D]evelop strategic questions… that need to be addressed for the policy process to be fully informed”
  1. “[U]ndertake strategic studies…” with strategic policy informed questions driving “research designs, hypotheses, and analyses.”
  1. “Shortening the review and publication process … to bring research in step with the real-time needs of policy makers.”

In summary, Brownell and Roberto point out the:

“unrealised potential to contribute to the common good by having the evidence base communicated more effectively to policy makers, and for scientists to be aware of the important questions in the policy world.”

Better interaction between researchers and policy domains would improve the speed by which long-standing, as well as new questions about nutrition and health, are translated into policies and advice for the public. Nutrition researchers can start by informing their research programs based on stated gaps in policy documents, like the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee 2015.

Brownell, KD and CA Roberto. “Strategic science with policy impact“. The Lancet. February 18, 2015.

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Nutrition research: a messy science

Featured article in the Winter 2015 Issue of Nutrition Close-Up; written by Tia M. Rains, PhD

Imagine that you’ve just identified a substance with preliminary evidence that suggests it is effective in preventing a particular disease. In this case, let’s pretend that the condition is type 2 diabetes (T2D) and that the substance is an extract. To test whether the extract prevents the onset of T2D, you would conduct a randomized, controlled intervention trial (RCT). Those individuals at risk for the development of T2D (e.g., those with prediabetes) would be recruited and upon meeting the prespecified entry criteria, they would be randomized to receive a capsule that contained either the extract or an identical-looking capsule that acted as a placebo.

Continue reading “Nutrition research: a messy science”

Can culinary medicine succeed where diet drugs don’t?

Featured article in the Winter 2015 Issue of Nutrition Close-Up; written by John La Puma, MD

Recent approvals of obesity drugs Qsymia (Vivus) and Belviq (Arena) may help clinicians seeking solutions for their overweight patients. But many physicians still remember Phen-Fen with a shudder: heart valve abnormalities in young women put a stop to that off label combo in 1997. Other available diet drugs1 have not performed well enough to help doctors overcome their fear of liability, or help enough patients overcome their fear of failure.

Continue reading “Can culinary medicine succeed where diet drugs don’t?”