Repeatability and validity of a food frequency questionnaire in free-living older people in relation to cognitive function

J Nutr Health Aging. 2008 Dec;12(10):735-41. doi: 10.1007/BF03028622.


Objectives: To determine the repeatability and validity of a self-administered, 175-item food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) in free-living older people and to assess whether these are influenced by cognitive function.

Participants and setting: 189 free-living people aged 64-80 y were recruited from participants in a previous study.

Design: To assess repeatability, 102 (52 M, 50 F) participants completed the FFQ on two occasions three months apart. To assess validity, another 87 participants (44 M, 43 F) completed the FFQ and a four-day weighed diet record three months later. 25 nutrients were studied.

Results: For repeatability, Spearman rank correlation coefficients were above 0.35 (p<0.05) for all nutrients. Cohen's weighted Kappa was above 0.4 for all nutrients except starch, riboflavin, retinol, beta-carotene, and calcium. There were no substantial differences in correlation coefficients between sub-groups divided by short-term memory test score. There was no clear pattern for correlation coefficients in sub-groups divided by executive function test score. For validity, the Spearman rank correlation coefficients were above 0.2 (p<0.05) for all nutrients except fat, mono-unsaturated fatty acids, niacin equivalents and vitamin D, and Cohen's weighted kappa was above 0.4 for alcohol and was above 0.2 for 13 other nutrients. Participants in the lowest-score groups of short-term memory and executive function had the lowest median Spearman correlation coefficient.

Conclusions: The FFQ had reasonable repeatability and validity in ranking nutrient intakes in this population though the results varied between nutrients. Poor short-term memory or executive function may affect FFQ validity in ranking nutrient intakes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cognition*
  • Diet Surveys*
  • Dietary Fats
  • Fatty Acids, Monounsaturated
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Humans
  • Independent Living
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term
  • Middle Aged
  • Niacin
  • Nutritional Status
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*
  • Vitamin D


  • Dietary Fats
  • Fatty Acids, Monounsaturated
  • Vitamin D
  • Niacin