Design and serendipity in establishing a large cohort with wide dietary intake distributions : the National Institutes of Health-American Association of Retired Persons Diet and Health Study

Am J Epidemiol. 2001 Dec 15;154(12):1119-25. doi: 10.1093/aje/154.12.1119.


In 1995-1996, the authors mailed a food frequency questionnaire to 3.5 million American Association of Retired Persons members who were aged 50-69 years and who resided in one of six states or two metropolitan areas with high-quality cancer registries. In establishing a cohort of 567,169 persons (340,148 men and 227,021 women), the authors were fortunate in that a less-than-anticipated baseline response rate (threatening inadequate numbers of respondents in the intake extremes) was offset by both a shifting and a widening of the intake distributions among those who provided satisfactory data. Reported median intakes for the first and fifth intake quintiles, respectively, were 20.4 and 40.1 (men) and 20.1 and 40.0 (women) percent calories from fat, 10.3 and 32.0 (men) and 8.7 and 28.7 (women) g per day of dietary fiber, 3.1 and 11.6 (men) and 2.8 and 11.3 (women) servings per day of fruits and vegetables, and 20.7 and 156.8 (men) and 10.5 and 97.0 (women) g per day of red meat. After 5 years of follow-up, the cohort is expected to yield nearly 4,000 breast cancers, more than 10,000 prostate cancers, more than 4,000 colorectal cancers, and more than 900 pancreatic cancers. The large size and wide intake range of the cohort will provide ample power for examining a number of important diet and cancer hypotheses.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cohort Studies
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage*
  • Dietary Fiber / administration & dosage*
  • Energy Intake / physiology*
  • Epidemiologic Research Design*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Fruit
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meat
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / diet therapy
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Nutrition Assessment
  • Prospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires / standards*
  • Vegetables


  • Dietary Fats
  • Dietary Fiber