Nutrient Estimation from 24-Hour Food Recalls Using Machine Learning and Database Mapping: A Case Study with Lactose

Nutrients. 2019 Dec 13;11(12):3045. doi: 10.3390/nu11123045.


The Automated Self-Administered 24-Hour Dietary Assessment Tool (ASA24) is a free dietary recall system that outputs fewer nutrients than the Nutrition Data System for Research (NDSR). NDSR uses the Nutrition Coordinating Center (NCC) Food and Nutrient Database, both of which require a license. Manual lookup of ASA24 foods into NDSR is time-consuming but currently the only way to acquire NCC-exclusive nutrients. Using lactose as an example, we evaluated machine learning and database matching methods to estimate this NCC-exclusive nutrient from ASA24 reports. ASA24-reported foods were manually looked up into NDSR to obtain lactose estimates and split into training (n = 378) and test (n = 189) datasets. Nine machine learning models were developed to predict lactose from the nutrients common between ASA24 and the NCC database. Database matching algorithms were developed to match NCC foods to an ASA24 food using only nutrients ("Nutrient-Only") or the nutrient and food descriptions ("Nutrient + Text"). For both methods, the lactose values were compared to the manual curation. Among machine learning models, the XGB-Regressor model performed best on held-out test data (R2 = 0.33). For the database matching method, Nutrient + Text matching yielded the best lactose estimates (R2 = 0.76), a vast improvement over the status quo of no estimate. These results suggest that computational methods can successfully estimate an NCC-exclusive nutrient for foods reported in ASA24.

Keywords: database matching; dietary recall; machine learning; nutrient database.

MeSH terms

  • Databases, Factual*
  • Diet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Diet Records*
  • Humans
  • Lactose / analysis
  • Machine Learning*
  • Models, Statistical
  • Nutrition Assessment*
  • Software


  • Lactose