Validation of energy intake estimated from a food frequency questionnaire: a doubly labelled water study

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Objective: The validation of dietary assessment methods is critical in the evaluation of the relation between dietary intake and health. The aim of this study was to assess the validity of a food frequency questionnaire by comparing energy intake with energy expenditure measured with the doubly labelled water method.

Design: Total energy expenditure was measured with the doubly labelled water (DLW) method during a 10 day period. Furthermore, the subjects filled in the food frequency questionnaire about 18–35 days after the DLW phase of the study was completed.

Subjects: Twenty-one healthy, non-pregnant females volunteered to participate in the study; only 17 subjects completed the study.

Results: The group energy intake was on average 10% lower than the energy expenditure, but the difference was not statistically significant. However, there was a wide range in reporting accuracy: seven subjects were identified as acceptable reporters, eight as under-reporters and two were identified as over-reporters. The width of the 95% confidence limits of agreement in a Bland and Altman plot for energy intake and energy expenditure varied from −5 to 3 MJ.

Conclusion: The data showed that there was substantial variability in the accuracy of the food frequency questionnaire at the individual level. Furthermore, the results showed that the questionnaire was more accurate for groups than individuals.

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The DLW analysis was carried out with the support of SERAD

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Correspondence to L Frost Andersen.

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  • doubly labelled water
  • validation
  • food questionnaire

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