Citation bias in the literature on dietary trans fatty acids and serum cholesterol

Miriam J. E. Urlings*, Bram Duyx, Gerard M. H. Swaen, Lex M. Bouter, Maurice P. A. Zeegers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

49 Downloads (Pure)


Objective: Balanced citations are a necessary condition for a sound development of scientific knowledge, whereas selective citations may bias scientific consensus. In this study, we assess which determinants influenced the likelihood of being cited in the literature on trans fatty acids and cholesterol.

Study Design and Setting: We conducted a citation network analysis of the literature concerning trans fats and low density cholesterol and high density cholesterol. Each publication was scored on various potential determinants of citation, such as study outcome, study design, sample size, journal impact factor, and funding source. We applied random effect logistic regression to identify determinants of citation.

Results: A network of 108 publications was identified, containing 5,041 potential citation paths and 669 utilized citation paths. Reporting statistically significant results was found to be a strong predictor of citation, together with sample size, journal impact factor, and the authority of the authors.

Conclusion: Within the literature on trans fat intake and cholesterol, selective citations are based on several grounds. Especially the effect of reporting significant results on citation requires special attention because disproportionate attention is paid to publications suggesting a harmful effect of trans fat on cholesterol. (C) 2018 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)88-97
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Clinical Epidemiology
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2019


  • Citation bias
  • Citation network analysis
  • Meta-research
  • Epidemiology
  • Trans fatty acids
  • Cholesterol

Cite this