Dieticians, associated with the division of Human Nutrition play an essential role in the design and realisation of food consumption studies, controlled nutrition intervention studies, and in sensory research. They provide advice to researchers and students about the choice of a method for food consumption studies and about the practical feasibility of their research protocol. Subsequently, they provide supervision and training during the study and data processing.
Food consumption studies
Dieticians advise about the design and carrying out of studies on food habits, both at the individual level and at the group level. They supervise and carry out these studies and they subsequently process the data to obtain information on the consumed amounts of foods and nutrients.
The appropriate method depends on the study objectives and the target population of the project (e.g. elderly, infants, teenagers). For instance, the method used can be a three- day record, a 24 hour recall questionnaire, a food frequency questionnaire or a structured interview.
Intervention trials are carried out to investigate the effect of a specific nutrient (for example a vitamin on plasma levels, or other functional indicators of health on physiological markers). Both parallel trials and cross-over trials are carried out. In these trials, the daily amount of food consumption is weighed to determine food intake exactly.
On some occasions a 'supplement trial' is performed. In this kind of study, the nutrient to be examined is provided in the form of a capsule, a single product or a meal, usually compared to a placebo treatment
Dieticians prepare the trials, they are responsible for the coordination and implementation of the trial, and they look after the guidelines for safe food provisioning (HACCP).
This type of research focuses on sensory perceptions such as smell and taste, and pleasantness of food products. Sensory preferences may be used as predictors or indicators for food consumption. Dieticians are involved in the preparation and realisation of sensory research.