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New core to aid research related to nutrition and diet

Mar. 7, 2013, 10:24 AM

A new research core has been established to help Vanderbilt University Medical Center investigators optimize their nutrition- and diet-related study designs, methods, measures, interventions and analysis.

The Vanderbilt Nutrition and Diet Assessment Core is available to internal and external investigators who would benefit from expert consultation to inform decision making in clinical, translational and community research.

Heidi Silver, Ph.D., R.D., directs the new Vanderbilt Nutrition and Diet Assessment Core, which assists investigators conducting diet-and nutrition-related research. (photo by Joe Howell)

“We aim to promote and enhance the conduct of nutrition- and diet-related research, and we perceive a need here at Vanderbilt for investigators whose primary expertise isn’t nutrition but who are designing a study that would benefit from state-of-the-science nutrition components,” said Heidi Silver, Ph.D., R.D., director of the core.

“The core team has the scientific knowledge base, skills and experience to inform decision making and improve the validity and reliability of nutrition and diet data collection”

Charging “fee-for-service,” the core provides a streamlined approach to conducting research.
Investigators can use the core just for expert consultation or incorporate the other core services without having to dedicate the time and effort to learn how to perform these procedures from the ground up.

Other core services include comprehensive nutrition assessment, protocol-specific nutrition education and counseling, 24-hour diet recalls, diet histories, food records, food frequency questionnaires, and methods to observe or weigh dietary intakes in home, community, hospital, clinic and long-term care settings.

“In sum, we offer assistance in design, execution and interpretation. We can help generate hypotheses, determine study aims, identify a study population, design and implement a study procedure or intervention, collect data, analyze it, and interpret these data in relation to other study findings,” Silver said.

“And, it’s all under one roof with a seasoned team of registered dietitians, nutritionists, research assistants and a dedicated nutrition and diet data manager.”

The core also has a research registry of more than 600 individuals who are interested in participating in nutritional-related trials.

Silver says ideally, researchers would consult the core early in the development of a study.

“We have often found that an investigator realizes it would be beneficial to have data for a certain nutrition or dietary variable when they have already completed study accrual and are in the midst of analyzing other data, which is usually too late. We can identify important measures to include and reliable methods in order to minimize scientific error and bias, optimize the quality of data that is collected, and improve interpretation of study findings,” Silver said.

The Vanderbilt Nutrition and Diet Assessment Core has grown out of several years of research experience, including participation in large multinational trials where the core team has collected and analyzed data from 10 countries.

“We completed 2,000 dietary assessments using the 24-hour recall method with subjects who spoke 5 languages, including Spanish, French and German. Thus, we have expanded our nutrient database to include foods and recipes from around the world,” Silver said.

“Most importantly, our reliability is extremely strong and we have very little variability when statistics on our data are compared to those from nationally representative samples.”

For more information about the Vanderbilt Nutrition and Diet Assessment Core, visit or call 322-7499.

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