Objectives: To re-state the principles underlying the Goldberg cut-off for identifying under-reporters of energy intake, re-examine the physiological principles and update the values to be substituted into the equation for calculating the cut-off, and to examine its use and limitations.
Results: New values are suggested for each element of the Goldberg equation. The physical activity level (PAL) for comparison with energy intake:basal metabolic rate (EI:BMR) should be selected to reflect the population under study; the PAL value of 1.55 x BMR is not necessarily the value of choice. The suggested value for average within-subject variation in energy intake is 23% (unchanged), but other sources of variation are increased in the light of new data. For within-subject variation in measured and estimated BMR, 4% and 8.5% respectively are suggested (previously 2.5% and 8%), and for total between-subject variation in PAL, the suggested value is 15% (previously 12.5%). The effect of these changes is to widen the confidence limits and reduce the sensitivity of the cut-off.
Conclusions: The Goldberg cut-off can be used to evaluate the mean population bias in reported energy intake, but information on the activity or lifestyle of the population is needed to choose a suitable PAL energy requirement for comparison. Sensitivity for identifying under-reporters at the individual level is limited. In epidemiological studies information on home, leisure and occupational activity is essential in order to assign subjects to low, medium or high PAL levels before calculating the cut-offs. In small studies, it is desirable to measure energy expenditure, or to calculate individual energy requirements, and to compare energy intake directly with energy expenditure.