Perspective: NutriGrade: A Scoring System to Assess and Judge the Meta-Evidence of Randomized Controlled Trials and Cohort Studies in Nutrition Research1–3

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Abstract

The objective of this study was to develop a scoring system (NutriGrade) to evaluate the quality of evidence of randomized controlled trial (RCT) and cohort study meta-analyses in nutrition research, building upon previous tools and expert recommendations. NutriGrade aims to assess the meta-evidence of an association or effect between different nutrition factors and outcomes, taking into account nutrition research-specific requirements not considered by other tools. In a pretest study, 6 randomly selected meta-analyses investigating diet-disease relations were evaluated with NutriGrade by 5 independent raters. After revision, NutriGrade was applied by the same raters to 30 randomly selected meta-analyses in the same thematic area. The reliability of ratings of NutriGrade items was calculated with the use of a multirater κ, and reliability of the total (summed scores) was calculated with the use of intraclass correlation coefficients (ICCs). The following categories for meta-evidence evaluation were established: high (8–10), moderate (6–7.99), low (4–5.99), and very low (0–3.99). The NutriGrade scoring system (maximum of 10 points) comprises the following items: 1) risk of bias, study quality, and study limitations, 2) precision, 3) heterogeneity, 4) directness, 5) publication bias, 6) funding bias, 7) study design, 8) effect size, and 9) dose-response. The NutriGrade score varied between 2.9 (very low meta-evidence) and 8.8 (high meta-evidence) for meta-analyses of RCTs, and it ranged between 3.1 and 8.8 for meta-analyses of cohort studies. The κ value of the ratings for each scoring item varied from 0.32 (95% CI: 0.22, 0.42) for risk of bias for cohort studies and 0.95 (95% CI: 0.91, 0.99) for study design, with a mean κ of 0.66 (95% CI: 0.53, 0.79). The ICC of the total score was 0.81 (95% CI: 0.69, 0.90). The NutriGrade scoring system showed good agreement and reliability. The initial findings regarding the performance of this newly established scoring system need further evaluation in independent analyses.

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