Value of Animal Studies About Nutrition

Ask the Nutritionist

Q: Why doesn't Dana-Farber Cancer Institute recognize some scientific animal studies about nutrition?

Bonny, Shanghai, China 

A: What constitutes "scientific evidence" is always a topic of debate. There is a lot of confusion surrounding animal versus human studies, and it is important to understand how these two different types of research differ.

Animal studies are often a great and telling starting point for human research, but animal research is not a perfect model for the human body. Research is often conducted with animal models prior to human models to determine if a human trial would be safe. However, there are a multitude of variables that could make scientific findings in an animal model ineffective in a human model. While animal research can provide some helpful preliminary findings, research conducted in animals cannot give us conclusive findings regarding humans.

As long as a study does not indicate harm, we are supportive of research that shows new effects of food and nutrients. However, until research is conducted in humans, we cannot be completely sure that these findings will translate beyond the animal model.

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