Saturated fat and human health: a protocol for a methodologically innovative systematic review and meta-analysis to inform public health nutrition guidelines

Bradley C. Johnston, Dena Zeraatkar, Jeremy Steen, Diego Rada Fernandez de Jauregui, Hongfei Zhu, Mingyao Sun, Matthew Cooper, Malgorzata Maraj, Anna Prokop-Dorner, Boris Castro Reyes, Claudia Valli, Dawid Storman, Giorgio Karam, Joanna Zajac, Long Ge, Mateusz J. Swierz, Nirjhar Ghosh, Robin W.M. Vernooij, Yaping Chang, Yunli ZhaoLehana Thabane, Gordon H. Guyatt, Pablo Alonso-Coello, Lee Hooper, Malgorzata M. Bala

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: The health effects of dietary fats are a controversial issue on which experts and authoritative organizations have often disagreed. Care providers, guideline developers, policy-makers, and researchers use systematic reviews to advise patients and members of the public on optimal dietary habits, and to formulate public health recommendations and policies. Existing reviews, however, have serious limitations that impede optimal dietary fat recommendations, such as a lack of focus on outcomes important to people, substantial risk of bias (RoB) issues, ignoring absolute estimates of effects together with comprehensive assessments of the certainty of the estimates for all outcomes. Objective: We therefore propose a methodologically innovative systematic review using direct and indirect evidence on diet and food-based fats (i.e., reduction or replacement of saturated fat with monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fat, or carbohydrates or protein) and the risk of important health outcomes. Methods: We will collaborate with an experienced research librarian to search MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (CDSR) for randomized clinical trials (RCTs) addressing saturated fat and our health outcomes of interest. In duplicate, we will screen, extract results from primary studies, assess their RoB, conduct de novo meta-analyses and/or network meta-analysis, assess the impact of missing outcome data on meta-analyses, present absolute effect estimates, and assess the certainty of evidence for each outcome using the GRADE contextualized approach. Our work will inform recommendations on saturated fat based on international standards for reporting systematic reviews and guidelines. Conclusion: Our systematic review and meta-analysis will provide the most comprehensive and rigorous summary of the evidence addressing the relationship between saturated fat modification for people-important health outcomes. The evidence from this review will be used to inform public health nutrition guidelines. Trial registration: PROSPERO Registration: CRD42023387377.

Original languageEnglish
Article number39
JournalSystematic Reviews
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023
Externally publishedYes


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