Inclusion and exclusion in nutrigenetics clinical research: ethical & scientific challenges
Article [Author's Original]
Background/Aims: There are compelling reasons to ensure participation of ethnic minorities and populations of all ages worldwide in nutrigenetics clinical research. If findings in such research are valid for some individuals, groups, or communities, and not for others, then ethical questions of justice – and not only issues of methodology and external validity – arise. This paper aims to examine inclusion in nutrigenetics clinical research and its scientific and ethical challenges. Methods: 173 publications were identified through a systematic review of clinical studies in nutrigenetics published between 1998 and 2007 inclusively. Data such as participants' demographics as well as eligibility criteria were extracted. Results: There is no consistency in the way participants’ origins (ancestry, ethnicity or race) and ages are described in publications. A vast majority of the studies identified was conducted in North America and Europe and focused on “white” participants. Our results show that pregnant women (and fetuses), minors and the elderly (≥75 years old) remain underrepresented. Conclusion: Representativeness in nutrigenetics research is a challenging ethical and scientific issue. Yet, if nutrigenetics is to benefit whole populations and be used in public and global health agendas, fair representation, as well as clear descriptions of participants in publications are crucial.
Hurlimann T, Stenne R, Menuz V, Godard B. Inclusion and exclusion in nutrigenetics clinical research: ethical & scientific challenges. J Nutrigenet Nutrigenomics 2011; 4(6): 322-43.