Objective: This paper describes the ad hoc methodological concepts and procedures developed to improve the comparability of Nutrient databases (NDBs) across the 10 European countries participating in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC). This was required because there is currently no European reference NDB available.
Design: A large network involving national compilers, nutritionists and experts on food chemistry and computer science was set up for the 'EPIC Nutrient DataBase' (ENDB) project. A total of 550-1500 foods derived from about 37,000 standardized EPIC 24-h dietary recalls (24-HDRS) were matched as closely as possible to foods available in the 10 national NDBs. The resulting national data sets (NDS) were then successively documented, standardized and evaluated according to common guidelines and using a DataBase Management System specifically designed for this project. The nutrient values of foods unavailable or not readily available in NDSs were approximated by recipe calculation, weighted averaging or adjustment for weight changes and vitamin/mineral losses, using common algorithms.
Results: The final ENDB contains about 550-1500 foods depending on the country and 26 common components. Each component value was documented and standardized for unit, mode of expression, definition and chemical method of analysis, as far as possible. Furthermore, the overall completeness of NDSs was improved (>or=99%), particularly for beta-carotene and vitamin E.
Conclusion: The ENDB constitutes a first real attempt to improve the comparability of NDBs across European countries. This methodological work will provide a useful tool for nutritional research as well as end-user recommendations to improve NDBs in the future.