Use of a common food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) to assess dietary patterns and their relation to allergy and asthma in Europe: pilot study of the GA2LEN FFQ

Eur J Clin Nutr. 2011 Jun;65(6):750-6. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2011.15. Epub 2011 Mar 23.


Background/objectives: Comparable international data on food and nutrient intake is often hindered by the lack of a common instrument to assess food intake. The objective of this study was within the Global Allergy and Asthma European Network of Excellence (GA(2)LEN), we developed and piloted a food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) to assess its validity in Europe.

Subjects/methods: Five countries participating in GA(2)LEN took part in the pilot study. A total of 200 adults aged 31-75 years were invited to complete a FFQ in two occasions and to give a blood sample. The intra-class correlation coefficient (ICC) was used to assess repeatability of the FFQ. Plasma phospholipid fatty acids (FAs) were analysed by gas chromatography. Pearson correlation was used to analyse the correlation between estimated dietary FA intake and plasma phospholipid FA levels.

Results: A total of 177 participants (89%) had complete data on FFQ(1) and plasma phospholipid FAs. In all, 152 participants (76%) completed both FFQs. ICCs between macronutrients ranged from 0.70 (saturated FAs) to 0.78 (proteins) and between 0.70 (retinol) and 0.81 (vitamin D) for micronutrients. Dietary n-3 FAs showed a good correlation with total plasma phospholipid n-3 FAs and with docosahexaenoic acid in the whole sample (0.40) and in individual countries. Poor correlations were observed for other FAs.

Conclusions: The GA(2)LEN FFQ is an appropriate tool to estimate dietary intake for a range of nutrients across Europe regardless of cultural and linguistic differences. The FFQ seems to be useful to estimate the intake of n-3 FAs but not other FAs.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Asthma
  • Diet Surveys / methods*
  • Diet*
  • Europe
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutrition Assessment*
  • Phospholipids / chemistry
  • Pilot Projects
  • Surveys and Questionnaires* / standards
  • Young Adult


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Phospholipids