F1000Research (2017-06-01)

Dietary assessment methods in epidemiological research: current state of the art and future prospects [version 1; referees: 3 approved]

  • Androniki Naska,
  • Areti Lagiou,
  • Pagona Lagiou

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 6


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Self-reported dietary intake is assessed by methods of real-time recording (food diaries and the duplicate portion method) and methods of recall (dietary histories, food frequency questionnaires, and 24-hour dietary recalls). Being less labor intensive, recall methods are more frequently employed in nutritional epidemiological investigations. However, sources of error, which include the participants’ inability to fully and accurately recall their intakes as well as limitations inherent in the food composition databases applied to convert the reported food consumption to energy and nutrient intakes, may limit the validity of the generated information. The use of dietary biomarkers is often recommended to overcome such errors and better capture intra-individual variability in intake; nevertheless, it has its own challenges. To address measurement error associated with dietary questionnaires, large epidemiological investigations often integrate sub-studies for the validation and calibration of the questionnaires and/or administer a combination of different assessment methods (e.g. administration of different questionnaires and assessment of biomarker levels). Recent advances in the omics field could enrich the list of reliable nutrition biomarkers, whereas new approaches employing web-based and smart phone applications could reduce respondent burden and, possibly, reporting bias. Novel technologies are increasingly integrated with traditional methods, but some sources of error still remain. In the analyses, food and nutrient intakes always need to be adjusted for total daily energy intake to account for errors related to reporting.