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Performance of a food-frequency questionnaire in the US NIH–AARP (National Institutes of Health–American Association of Retired Persons) Diet and Health Study

Abstract
AbstractObjective

We evaluated the performance of the food-frequency questionnaire (FFQ) administered to participants in the US NIH–AARP (National Institutes of Health–American Association of Retired Persons) Diet and Health Study, a cohort of 566 404 persons living in the USA and aged 50–71 years at baseline in 1995.

Design

The 124-item FFQ was evaluated within a measurement error model using two non-consecutive 24-hour dietary recalls (24HRs) as the reference.

Setting

Participants were from six states (California, Florida, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, North Carolina and Louisiana) and two metropolitan areas (Atlanta, Georgia and Detroit, Michigan).

Subjects

A subgroup of the cohort consisting of 2053 individuals.

Results

For the 26 nutrient constituents examined, estimated correlations with true intake (not energy-adjusted) ranged from 0.22 to 0.67, and attenuation factors ranged from 0.15 to 0.49. When adjusted for reported energy intake, performance improved; estimated correlations with true intake ranged from 0.36 to 0.76, and attenuation factors ranged from 0.24 to 0.68. These results compare favourably with those from other large prospective studies. However, previous biomarker-based studies suggest that, due to correlation of errors in FFQs and self-report reference instruments such as the 24HR, the correlations and attenuation factors observed in most calibration studies, including ours, tend to overestimate FFQ performance.

Conclusion

The performance of the FFQ in the NIH–AARP Diet and Health Study, in conjunction with the study’s large sample size and wide range of dietary intake, is likely to allow detection of moderate (≥1.8) relative risks between many energy-adjusted nutrients and common cancers.

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Corresponding author: Email thompsof@mail.nih.gov
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