An Overview of Methods and Exemplars of the Use of Mendelian Randomisation in Nutritional Research.
Bennett DA., Du H.
Objectives: It is crucial to elucidate the causal relevance of nutritional exposures (such as dietary patterns, food intake, macronutrients intake, circulating micronutrients), or biomarkers in non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in order to find effective strategies for NCD prevention. Classical observational studies have found evidence of associations between nutritional exposures and NCD development, but such studies are prone to confounding and other biases. This has direct relevance for translation research, as using unreliable evidence can lead to the failure of trials of nutritional interventions. Facilitated by the availability of large-scale genetic data, Mendelian randomization studies are increasingly used to ascertain the causal relevance of nutritional exposures and biomarkers for many NCDs. Methods: A narrative overview was conducted in order to demonstrate and describe the utility of Mendelian randomization studies, for individuals with little prior knowledge engaged in nutritional epidemiological research. Results: We provide an overview, rationale and basic description of the methods, as well as strengths and limitations of Mendelian randomization studies. We give selected examples from the contemporary nutritional literature where Mendelian randomization has provided useful evidence on the potential causal relevance of nutritional exposures. Conclusions: The selected exemplars demonstrate the importance of well-conducted Mendelian randomization studies as a robust tool to prioritize nutritional exposures for further investigation.