BMC Medical Research Methodology. 2016;16(1):1
Background: Evidence mapping is an emerging tool used to systematically identify, organize and summarize the quantity and focus of scientific evidence on a broad topic, but there are currently no methodological standards. Using the topic of low-calorie sweeteners (LCS) and selected health outcomes, we describe the process of creating an evidence-map database and demonstrate several example descriptive analyses using this database.
Methods: The process of creating an evidence-map database is described in detail. The steps include: developing a comprehensive literature search strategy, establishing study eligibility criteria and a systematic study selection process, extracting data, developing outcome groups with input from expert stakeholders and tabulating data using descriptive analyses. The database was uploaded onto SRDR™ (Systematic Review Data Repository), an open public data repository.
Results: Our final LCS evidence-map database included 225 studies, of which 208 were interventional studies and 17 were cohort studies. An example bubble plot was produced to display the evidence-map data and visualize research gaps according to four parameters: comparison types, population baseline health status, outcome groups, and study sample size. This plot indicated a lack of studies assessing appetite and dietary intake related outcomes using LCS with a sugar intake comparison in people with diabetes.
Conclusion: Evidence mapping is an important tool for the contextualization of in-depth systematic reviews within broader literature and identifies gaps in the evidence base, which can be used to inform future research. An open evidence-map database has the potential to promote knowledge translation from nutrition science to policy.
Download this open access publication here.
This work was supported by the ILSI North America Committee on Low-Calorie Sweeteners.