Statistical methods for estimating usual intake of nutrients and foods: a review of the theory

J Am Diet Assoc. 2006 Oct;106(10):1640-50. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2006.07.011.


Although 24-hour recalls are frequently used in dietary assessment, intake on a single day is a poor estimator of long-term usual intake. Statistical modeling mitigates this limitation more effectively than averaging multiple 24-hour recalls per respondent. In this article, we describe the statistical theory that underlies the four major modeling methods developed to date, then review the strengths and limitations of each method. We focus on the problem of estimating the distribution of usual intake for a population from 24-hour recall data, giving special attention to the problems inherent in modeling usual intake for foods or food groups that a proportion of the population does not consume every day (ie, episodically consumed foods). All four statistical methods share a common framework. Differences between the methods arise from different assumptions about the measurement characteristics of 24-hour recalls and from the fact that more recently developed methods build upon their predecessor(s). These differences can result in estimated usual intake distributions that differ from one another. We also demonstrate the need for an improved method for estimating usual intake distributions for episodically consumed foods.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Diet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Diet Surveys*
  • Energy Intake
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Mental Recall
  • Models, Statistical*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Time Factors