Evaluation of simulation models that estimate the effect of dietary strategies on nutritional intake: A systematic review

Jessica A. Grieger, Brittany J. Johnson, Thomas P. Wycherley, Rebecca K. Golley

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Dietary simulation modeling can predict dietary strategies that may improve nutritional or health outcomes. Objectives: The study aims were to undertake a systematic review of simulation studies that model dietary strategies aiming to improve nutritional intake, body weight, and related chronic disease, and to assess the methodologic and reporting quality of these models. Methods: The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guided the search strategy with studies located through electronic searches [Cochrane Library, Ovid (MEDLINE and Embase), EBSCOhost (CINAHL), and Scopus]. Study findings were described and dietary modeling methodology and reporting quality were critiqued by using a set of quality criteria adapted for dietary modeling from general modeling guidelines. Results: Forty-five studieswere included and categorized as modelingmoderation, substitution, reformulation, or promotion dietary strategies.Moderation and reformulation strategies targeted individual nutrients or foods to theoretically improve one particular nutrient or health outcome, estimating small to modest improvements. Substituting unhealthy foods with healthier choiceswas estimated to be effective across a range of nutrients, including an estimated reduction in intake of saturated fatty acids, sodium, and added sugar. Promotion of fruits and vegetables predicted marginal changes in intake. Overall, the quality of the studies was moderate to high, with certain features of the quality criteria consistently reported. Conclusions: Based on the results of reviewed simulation dietary modeling studies, targeting a variety of foods rather than individual foods or nutrients theoretically appears most effective in estimating improvements in nutritional intake, particularly reducing intake of nutrients commonly consumed in excess. A combination of strategies could theoretically be used to deliver the best improvement in outcomes. Study quality was moderate to high. However, given the lack of dietary simulation reporting guidelines, future work could refine the quality tool to harmonize consistency in the reporting of subsequent dietary modeling studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)908-931
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 12 Apr 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Dietary modeling
  • Dietary scenarios
  • Dietary strategies
  • Reporting quality
  • Simulation modeling


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