Validation of a food-frequency questionnaire assessment of carotenoid and vitamin E intake using weighed food records and plasma biomarkers: the method of triads model

Eur J Clin Nutr. 2005 Feb;59(2):211-8. doi: 10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602060.


Background: Reliability or validity studies are important for the evaluation of measurement error in dietary assessment methods. An approach to validation known as the method of triads uses triangulation techniques to calculate the validity coefficient of a food-frequency questionnaire (FFQ).

Objective: To assess the validity of an FFQ estimates of carotenoid and vitamin E intake against serum biomarker measurements and weighed food records (WFRs), by applying the method of triads.

Design: The study population was a sub-sample of adult participants in a randomised controlled trial of beta-carotene and sunscreen in the prevention of skin cancer. Dietary intake was assessed by a self-administered FFQ and a WFR. Nonfasting blood samples were collected and plasma analysed for five carotenoids (alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, lycopene) and vitamin E. Correlation coefficients were calculated between each of the dietary methods and the validity coefficient was calculated using the method of triads. The 95% confidence intervals for the validity coefficients were estimated using bootstrap sampling.

Results: The validity coefficients of the FFQ were highest for alpha-carotene (0.85) and lycopene (0.62), followed by beta-carotene (0.55) and total carotenoids (0.55), while the lowest validity coefficient was for lutein (0.19). The method of triads could not be used for beta-cryptoxanthin and vitamin E, as one of the three underlying correlations was negative.

Conclusions: Results were similar to other studies of validity using biomarkers and the method of triads. For many dietary factors, the upper limit of the validity coefficients was less than 0.5 and therefore only strong relationships between dietary exposure and disease will be detected.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antioxidants / administration & dosage
  • Antioxidants / metabolism
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Carotenoids / administration & dosage*
  • Carotenoids / blood*
  • Diet Records
  • Diet Surveys
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutrition Assessment
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Surveys and Questionnaires / standards*
  • Vitamin E / administration & dosage*
  • Vitamin E / blood*


  • Antioxidants
  • Biomarkers
  • Vitamin E
  • Carotenoids