Background: The quality of nutrition-related systematic reviews (SRs) is an unstudied but important factor affecting their usefulness.
Objectives: The objectives were to evaluate the reporting quality of published SRs and to identify areas of improvement.
Design: Descriptive and exploratory analyses of the reporting quality (7 nutrition items and 28 SR reporting items) of all English-language SRs published through July 2007 linking micronutrients and health outcomes in humans were conducted. Factors that may be associated with reporting quality were also evaluated.
Results: We identified 141 eligible SRs of 21 micronutrients. Ninety SRs that included only interventional studies met a higher proportion of our reporting criteria (median: 62%; interquartile range: 51%, 72%) than did 31 SRs with only observational studies (median: 53%; interquartile range: 47%, 60%) or 20 SRs with both study designs (median: 47%; interquartile range: 39%, 52%) (P < 0.001). SRs published after consensus reporting standards (since 2003) met a higher proportion of the reporting criteria than did earlier SRs (median: 59% compared with 50%; P = 0.01); however, the reporting of nutrition variables remained unchanged (median: 38% compared with 33%; P = 0.7). The least-reported nutrition criteria were baseline nutrient exposures (28%) and effects of measurement errors from nutrition exposures (24%). Only 58 SRs (41%) used quality scales or checklists to assess the methodologic quality of the primary studies included.
Conclusions: The reporting quality of SRs has improved 3 y after publication of SR reporting standards, but the reporting of nutrition variables has not. Improved adherence to consensus methods and reporting standards should improve the utility of nutrition SRs.