The added value of food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) information to estimate the usual food intake based on repeated 24-hour recalls

Arch Public Health. 2017 Oct 30;75:46. doi: 10.1186/s13690-017-0214-8. eCollection 2017.


Background: Statistical methods to model the usual dietary intake of foods in a population generally ignore the additional information on the never-consumers. The objective of this study is to determine the added value of Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ) data allowing distinguishing the never-consumers from the non-consumers while modeling the usual intake distribution.

Methods: Three food items with a different proportion of never-consumers were selected from the database of the Belgian food consumption survey of 2004 (N = 3200). The usual intake distribution for these food items was modeled with the Statistical Program for Analysis of Dietary Exposure (SPADE) and modeling parameters were extracted. These parameters were used to simulate (a) a new database with two 24-h recalls per respondent and (b) a "true" usual intake distribution. The usual intake distribution from the new database was obtained by modeling the 24-h recalls with SPADE, once without and once with the inclusion of the FFQ data on the never-consumers. Ratios were calculated for the different percentiles of the usual intake distribution: the modeled usual intake (g/day) (for both SPADE with and without the inclusion of FFQ data on never-consumers) was divided by the corresponding percentile of the simulated "true" usual intake (g/day). The closer the ratio is to one, the better the model fits the data.

Results: Inclusion of the FFQ information to identify the never-consumers did not improve the estimation of the higher percentiles of the usual intake distribution. However, taking into account this FFQ information improved the estimation of the lower percentiles of the usual intake distribution even when the proportion of never-consumers was low.

Conclusions: The inclusion of FFQ information to identify the never-consumers is beneficial when interested in the whole usual intake distribution or in the lower percentiles only, no matter how low the proportion of never-consumers for that food item may be. However, when interest is only in the higher percentiles of the usual intake distribution, inclusion of FFQ information to identify the never-consumers will have no benefit.

Keywords: 24-hour recall; Episodically consumed foods; FFQ; Food frequency questionnaire; Never-consumers; Spade; Statistical modeling methods; Usual intake.