Objectives: To develop and validate a short food-frequency questionnaire to assess habitual dietary salt intake in South Africans and to allow classification of individuals according to intakes above or below the maximum recommended intake of 6 g salt day-1.
Design: Cross-sectional validation study in 324 conveniently sampled men and women.
Methods: Repeated 24-hour urinary Na values and 24-hour dietary recalls were obtained on three occasions. Food items consumed by >5% of the sample and which contributed > or =50 mg Na serving-1 were included in the questionnaire in 42 categories. A scoring system was devised, based on Na content of one index food per category and frequency of consumption.
Results: Positive correlations were found between Na content of 35 of the 42 food categories in the questionnaire and total Na intake, calculated from 24-hour recall data. Total Na content of the questionnaire was associated with Na estimations from 24-hour recall data (r = 0.750; P < 0.0001; n = 328) and urinary Na (r = 0.152; P = 0.0105; n = 284). Urinary Na was higher for subjects in tertile 3 than tertile 1 of questionnaire Na content (P < 0.05). Questionnaire Na content of <2400 and > or =2400 mg day-1 equated to a reference cut-off score of 48 and corresponded to mean (standard deviation) urinary Na values of 145 (68) and 176 (99) mmol day-1, respectively (P < 0.05). Sensitivity and specificity against urinary Na > or =100 and <100 mmol day-1 was 12.4% and 93.9%, respectively.
Conclusion: A 42-item food-frequency questionnaire has been shown to have content-, construct- and criterion-related validity, as well as internal consistency, with regard to categorising individuals according to their habitual salt intake; however, the devised scoring system needs to show improved sensitivity.