Underreporting of energy intake from a self-administered food-frequency questionnaire completed by adults in Montreal

Public Health Nutr. 2004 Aug;7(5):675-81. doi: 10.1079/PHN2003578.


Background: Energy intake determined from self-reported dietary assessment methods may be underreported. Therefore, it is important that such methods be validated against another with known validity for energy intake or energy expenditure.

Methods: We investigated potential underestimation of energy intake obtained from our semi-quantitative food-frequency questionnaire (FFQ) administered between 2000 and 2001 in the metropolitan area of Montreal, Canada. The study population included 246 adults aged 18 to 82 years. The ratio of energy intake to estimated basal metabolic rate (EI/BMR) was used to assess underreporting and physical activity was determined from self-administered questions. Comparison of the EI/BMR ratio with the Goldberg statistical cut-off allowed us to detect individuals who were low energy reporters (LERs). LERs and non-LERs were compared to determine if they differed on sociodemographic, anthropometric and lifestyle variables.

Results: The EI/BMR ratio was 1.26 for men and 1.32 for women. LERs represented 43% of the sample of individuals. Male LERs accounted for 54% compared with 35% among females. Underreporting of energy intake was highest in men and individuals who were older, heavier, with higher body mass index and lower education level. A higher proportion of male LERs perceived their financial situation as adequate while a greater proportion of female LERs considered themselves poor.

Conclusion: Our data suggest that underreporting of energy intake from the FFQ was considerable and may bias dietary interpretation. As this was uneven across the sample, it is crucial to recognise the characteristics of LERs in order to increase the validity of reported energy intake.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Basal Metabolism / physiology
  • Canada
  • Diet Records*
  • Energy Intake / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Self Disclosure
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Surveys and Questionnaires / standards*