Statistics and bioinformatics in nutritional sciences: analysis of complex data in the era of systems biology Academic Article uri icon


  • Over the past 2 decades, there have been revolutionary developments in life science technologies characterized by high throughput, high efficiency, and rapid computation. Nutritionists now have the advanced methodologies for the analysis of DNA, RNA, protein, low-molecular-weight metabolites, as well as access to bioinformatics databases. Statistics, which can be defined as the process of making scientific inferences from data that contain variability, has historically played an integral role in advancing nutritional sciences. Currently, in the era of systems biology, statistics has become an increasingly important tool to quantitatively analyze information about biological macromolecules. This article describes general terms used in statistical analysis of large, complex experimental data. These terms include experimental design, power analysis, sample size calculation, and experimental errors (Type I and II errors) for nutritional studies at population, tissue, cellular, and molecular levels. In addition, we highlighted various sources of experimental variations in studies involving microarray gene expression, real-time polymerase chain reaction, proteomics, and other bioinformatics technologies. Moreover, we provided guidelines for nutritionists and other biomedical scientists to plan and conduct studies and to analyze the complex data. Appropriate statistical analyses are expected to make an important contribution to solving major nutrition-associated problems in humans and animals (including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, ageing, and intrauterine growth retardation).

altmetric score

  • 0.75

author list (cited authors)

  • Fu, W. J., Stromberg, A. J., Viele, K., Carroll, R. J., & Wu, G.

citation count

  • 61
  • 62

publication date

  • March 2010