Validated methods to measure food intake in humans


Can we measure food intake in humans?

Accurately quantifying food intake is essential to understanding the effect of diet on health and diseases and evaluating the efficacy of dietary interventions. Self-report methods (e.g., food records) remain frequently used despite their evident inaccuracy at assessing energy intake and diet composition.  In fact, the many components of food intake: calorie amount, diet composition, eating pattern, meal timing, day-to-day variability, and overall effect on metabolism and energy balance, are excessively difficult to assess in research and in clinical setting. While there are accurate methods to assess sleep and physical activity, there is still a need to develop and validate reliable methods for laboratory and ambulatory measures of many aspects of food intake behavior.

The goal of this collection on validated methods to measure food intake in humans, was, in addition to the welcome historical perspectives (Bellisle) (Kissileff), to present current and futuristic methods to measure food intake behavior both in laboratory setting (Bellisle) (Kissileff), (Sazonov) and in ambulatory free-living conditions (Manoogian) (Höchsmann). In a near future, by combining body sensors and remote captors of behavior, validated against state-of-the-art stable isotope methods (Ravelli- Schoeller), with precise quantitative measure of an infinite number of biomarkers (González-Domínguez), we will have a more reliable way to track food intake behavior and its metabolic consequences. However, the technology to support food recognition and portion size estimation is still in its infancy and fully automated precise assessment of food intake in ambulatory setting is not yet a reality. With advance technology and artificial intelligence, we can hope for reduced data analysis-related burden and allow feedback in real-time to users. This will not only help us understand the determinants of this complex behavior but enable targeted dietary interventions to promote health and prevent diseases.


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  • Blandine Laferrère MD, PhD

    Nutrition Obesity Research Center Department of Medicine Columbia University Irving Medical Center Russ Berrie Medical Science Pavilion R-121-G 1150 Saint Nicholas Avenue New York, NY 10032-3702