Biomarkers of Dietary Intake Are Correlated with Corresponding Measures from Repeated Dietary Recalls and Food-Frequency Questionnaires in the Adventist Health Study-2

J Nutr. 2016 Mar;146(3):586-94. doi: 10.3945/jn.115.225508. Epub 2016 Feb 3.


Background: Accurate assessment of diet in study populations is still a challenge. Some statistical strategies that use biomarkers of dietary intake attempt to compensate for the biasing effects of reporting errors.

Objective: The objective was to correlate biomarkers of dietary intake with 2 direct measures of dietary intake.

Methods: Subjects provided repeated 24-h dietary recalls and 2 food-frequency questionnaires (FFQs) separated by ∼3 y. Correlations between biomarkers and reported dietary intakes as measured by the recalls and FFQs were de-attenuated for within-person variability. The Adventist Health Study-2 (AHS-2) has a large database of biomarkers of dietary intake (blood, urine, adipose tissue) from a calibration study (909 analytic subjects) representing the cohort. Participants were black and non-black Adventists in the United States and Canada.

Results: Dietary items with higher-valued de-attenuated correlations (≥0.50) between biomarkers and recalls included some fatty acids (FAs), the non-fish meats, fruit (non-black subjects), some carotenoids, vitamin B-12 (non-black subjects), and vitamin E. Moderately valued correlations (0.30-0.49) were found for very long chain ω-3 (n-3) FAs, some carotenoids, folate, isoflavones, cruciferous vegetables, fruit (black subjects), and calcium. The highest correlation values in non-black and black subjects were 0.69 (urinary 1-methyl-histidine and meat consumption) and 0.72 (adipose and dietary 18:2 ω-6), respectively. Correlations comparing biomarkers with recalls were generally similar for black and non-black subjects, but correlations between biomarkers and the FFQ were slightly lower than corresponding recall correlations. Correlations between biomarkers and a single FFQ estimate (the usual cohort situation) were generally much lower.

Conclusions: Many biomarkers that have relatively high-valued correlations with dietary intake were identified and were usually of similar value in black and non-black subjects. These may be used to correct effects of dietary measurement errors in the AHS-2 cohort, and in some cases they also provide evidence supporting the validity of the dietary data.

Keywords: Adventist; African Americans; adipose fatty acids; biomarkers; carotenoids; validity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biomarkers / blood*
  • Biomarkers / urine*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Calibration
  • Canada
  • Carotenoids / administration & dosage
  • Carotenoids / blood
  • Choice Behavior
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diet*
  • Energy Intake
  • Fatty Acids / administration & dosage
  • Female
  • Folic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Folic Acid / blood
  • Food Preferences
  • Fruit
  • Humans
  • Isoflavones / administration & dosage
  • Isoflavones / blood
  • Male
  • Meat
  • Mental Recall
  • Methylhistidines / urine
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutrition Assessment
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*
  • United States
  • Vegetables


  • Biomarkers
  • Fatty Acids
  • Isoflavones
  • Methylhistidines
  • 1-methylhistidine
  • Carotenoids
  • Folic Acid