The Bayesian Approach to Decision Making and Analysis in Nutrition Research and Practice

J Acad Nutr Diet. 2019 Dec;119(12):1993-2003. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2019.07.009. Epub 2019 Oct 1.


This is part of a series of monographs on research design and analysis. The purpose of this article is to describe the purposes of and approach to conducting Bayesian decision making and analysis. Bayesian decision making involves basing decisions on the probability of a successful outcome, where this probability is informed by both prior information and new evidence the decision maker obtains. The statistical analysis that underlies the calculation of these probabilities is Bayesian analysis. In recent years, the Bayesian approach has been applied more commonly in both nutrition research and clinical decision making, and registered dietitian nutritionists would benefit from gaining a deeper understanding of this approach. This article provides a background of Bayesian decision making and analysis, and then presents applications of the approach in two different areas-medical diagnoses and nutrition policy research. It concludes with a description of how Bayesian decision making may be used in everyday life to allow each of us to appropriately weigh established beliefs and prior knowledge with new data and information in order to make well-informed and wise decisions.

Keywords: Bayes Theorem; Bayesian analysis; Bayesian decision making; Posterior distribution; Prior probability.

MeSH terms

  • Bayes Theorem*
  • Decision Support Techniques*
  • Humans
  • Nutritional Sciences / methods*
  • Research Design