Using realist approaches in nutrition and dietetics research

Gemma Jenkins, Isabella Maugeri*, Claire Palermo, Rebecca Hardwick

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleResearchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
36 Downloads (Pure)


Aim: The aim of this study was to explore the use and future potential of realist approaches to research in nutrition and dietetics. 

Methods: A targeted literature review was used to search key journals (n = 7) in nutrition and dietetics to identify existing research using a realist approach. A narrative synthesis was conducted to explore findings in relation to the research aim. 

Results: Nine research papers (four realist evaluations, five realist reviews) describing seven nutrition interventions were found, which revealed the application of realist research in nutrition and dietetics has focused on public health interventions. Realist research provided a deeper, more nuanced understanding of varied outcomes including the role of context, and contributed to the development of theory about how and why interventions work. As a theory-driven research method, realist research was able to assist in overcoming methodological shortcomings to contribute to meaningful, transferable findings. 

Conclusion: The results highlight the potential contribution of the realist research in nutrition and dietetics to evaluate interventions and inform future practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)238-251
Number of pages14
JournalNutrition and Dietetics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021
Externally publishedYes


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