The fourth meeting of NHMRC’s Dietary Guidelines Expert Committee (the Expert Committee) was held in December 2022 by videoconference. The meeting focused on refining priority topic areas to inform the development of research questions and discussing specific aspects of the evidence review process. 

Prioritisation of evidence review topics 

The Expert Committee progressed the formulation of research questions that will inform the scope of the evidence review. Meeting discussions centred on the highest priority topics for review and the most relevant research questions that need addressing within each subtopic. 

The existing Australian Dietary Guidelines (the Guidelines) were used as the foundation for determining relevant research questions that have emerged since development of the Guidelines. 

Prioritisation of research questions was determined by the need to update the evidence base, rather than the likelihood of inclusion in the Guidelines. Research questions for which the existing evidence base is considered to be sufficiently current and robust will be considered a lower priority for review. 

Consistent with international approaches, each research question will specify the populations, interventions/exposures, comparators and health outcomes of interest in relation to the topics. 

Developing the evidence review process 

Following previous discussions around the evidence review process and a need to maximise the use of available resources, the Expert Committee considered a screening approach for identifying potentially relevant systematic reviews. With limited resources for de novo systematic reviews, existing high quality systematic reviews could be used to inform the evidence base for the revision to the Guidelines. 

Identifying existing systematic reviews, through additional scoping work and a planned public call for evidence, would also support the review of the evidence by highlighting any significant gaps where additional research may be required. 

The Expert Committee discussed eligibility criteria when considering existing systematic reviews throughout the evidence review process, including relevant date ranges of published studies and quality assessments in the study methodology. Applicable studies would be focused on preventive interventions rather than interventions related to the management and treatment of disease. 

Next meeting 

A subsequent meeting was held in March and its Communiqué is in preparation.