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Accuracy of estimates of food portion size using food photographs – the importance of using age-appropriate tools

  • Emma Foster (a1), John NS Matthews (a2), Michael Nelson (a3), Julie M Harris (a4), John C Mathers (a1) and Ashley J Adamson (a1)
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1079/PHN2005872
  • Published online: 01 January 2007
Abstract
AbstractBackground

In order to obtain a measure of nutrient intake, a measure or estimate of the amount of food consumed is required. Weighing foods imposes a large burden on subjects, often resulting in underreporting. Tools are available to assist subjects in providing an estimate of portion size and these include food photographs. The application of these tools in improving portion size estimation by children has not been investigated systematically.

Objectives

To assess the accuracy with which children are able to estimate food portion sizes using food photographs designed for use with adults, and to determine whether the accuracy of estimates is improved when age-appropriate portion size photographs are provided.

Design

Original data from three separate studies, on the accuracy of portion size estimates by adults using food photographs, by children using adult photographs and by children using age-appropriate photographs, are analysed and compared.

Subjects

One hundred and thirty-five adults aged 18 to 90 years and 210 children aged 4 to 11 years.

Results

Children's estimates of portion sizes using age-appropriate food photographs were significantly more accurate (an underestimate of 1% on average) than estimates using photographs designed for use with adults (an overestimate of 45% on average). Accuracy of children's estimates of portion size using age-appropriate photographs was not significantly different from that of adults. Children overestimated a food's weight by 18% on average and adults underestimated by 5%.

Conclusions

Providing children with food photographs depicting age-appropriate portion sizes greatly increases the accuracy of portion size estimates compared with estimates using photographs designed for use with adults.

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*Corresponding author: Email Emma.Foster@ncl.ac.uk
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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

1GS Berenson , SR Srinivasan , W Bao , WP Newman 3rd, RE Tracy , WA Wattigney . Association between multiple cardiovascular risk factors and atherosclerosis in children and young adults. New England Journal of Medicine 1998; 338: 1650–6.

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13C Frobisher , SM Maxwell . The estimation of food portion sizes: a comparison between using descriptions of portion sizes and a photographic food atlas by children and adults. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics 2003; 16: 181–8.

21F Robinson , W Morritz , P McGuiness , AF Hackett . A study of the use of a photographic food atlas to estimate served and self-served portion sizes. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics 1997; 10: 117–24.

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