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Diet, Food, and Nutrition – How To Search in PubMed


By Eric Rumsey, Janna Lawrence and Xiaomei Gu

Searching for Food, Diet & Nutrition has long been one of the most difficult subjects to search in PubMed. We were happy to report earlier this year that the National Library of Medicine has gone a long way toward fixing this problem, with a new explosion for Diet, Food, and Nutrition.

Before the new explosion came out, searching for the subject was very tricky because diet, food and nutrition were all in different places in the MeSH tree structure, and so they had to be searched separately. To help with this problem, we created a detailed search strategy, or hedge, that would bring together all of the components in one search. We no longer recommend using this hedge. We have examined the new explosion, and find that it covers the field very adequately.

We strongly recommend the new explosion for most nutrition searches. But there are some aspects of the field that are not covered in the new explosion that were part of our hedge, in particular obesity and vitamins. Both of these terms are closely connected to the subject of food, diet & nutrition. But we understand why NLM has not included them in the new explosion, since they will not always be wanted. Both of these subjects are somewhat complicated to search in PubMed. In both cases, however, a simple one-word text word search will retrieve almost all of the relevant citations. So in cases when you want to include these subjects in your nutrition searching, you can do these searches:

Diet, Food, and Nutrition [mh] OR vitamins
Diet, Food, and Nutrition [mh] OR obesity
Diet, Food, and Nutrition [mh] OR vitamins OR obesity

“Good job, NLM!”

In conclusion, good words for the National Library of Medicine – Thank you for fixing the long-standing problem in searching for nutrition! With the surging interest in the subject, you’ve made things a lot easier for the many people searching for it.