Assessing Dietary Outcomes in Intervention Studies: Pitfalls, Strategies, and Research Needs

Nutrients. 2018 Jul 31;10(8):1001. doi: 10.3390/nu10081001.


To inform strategies to improve the dietary intakes of populations, robust evaluations of interventions are required. This paper is drawn from a workshop held at the International Society of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2017 Annual Meeting, and highlights considerations and research priorities relevant to measuring dietary outcomes within intervention studies. Self-reported dietary data are typically relied upon in such studies, and it is recognized that these data are affected by random and systematic error. Additionally, differential error between intervention and comparison groups or pre- and post-intervention can be elicited by the intervention itself, for example, by creating greater awareness of eating or drinking occasions or the desire to appear compliant. Differential reporting can render the results of trials incorrect or inconclusive by leading to biased estimates and reduced statistical power. The development of strategies to address intervention-related biases requires developing a better understanding of the situations and population groups in which interventions are likely to elicit differential reporting and the extent of the bias. Also needed are efforts to expand the feasibility and applications of biomarkers to address intervention-related biases. In the meantime, researchers are encouraged to consider the potential for differential biases in dietary reporting in a given study, to choose tools carefully and take steps to minimize and/or measure factors such as social desirability biases that might contribute to differential reporting, and to consider the implications of differential reporting for study results.

Keywords: bias; dietary assessment; dietary outcomes; differential reporting; interventions; measurement error.

Publication types

  • Congress

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Research / methods*
  • Biomedical Research / trends
  • Diet* / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Needs Assessment
  • Nutrition Assessment*
  • Nutritional Status
  • Nutritive Value
  • Recommended Dietary Allowances
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Self Report