Commercial Devices Provide Estimates of Energy Balance with Varying Degrees of Validity in Free-Living Adults

J Nutr. 2022 Feb 8;152(2):630-638. doi: 10.1093/jn/nxab317.


Background: The challenges of accurate estimation of energy intake (EI) are well-documented, with self-reported values 12%-20% below expected values. New approaches rely on gold-standard assessments of the other components of energy balance, energy expenditure (EE) and energy storage (ES), to estimate EI.

Objectives: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the validity, repeatability, and measurement error of consumer devices when estimating energy balance in a free-living population.

Methods: Twenty-four healthy adults (14 women, 10 men; mean ± SD age: 30.7 ± 8.2 y) completed two 14-d assessment periods, including assessments of EE and ES using gold-standard [doubly labeled water (DLW) and DXA] and commercial devices [Fitbit Alta HR activity monitor (Alta) and Fitbit Aria wireless body composition scale (Aria)], and of EI by dietician-administered recalls. Accuracy and validity were assessed using Spearman correlation, interclass correlation, mean absolute percentage error, and equivalency testing. We also applied linear measurement error modeling including error in gold-standard devices and within-subject repeated-measures design to calibrate consumer devices and quantify error.

Results: There was moderate to strong agreement for EE between the Fitbit Alta and DLW at each time point (rs = 0.82 and 0.66 for Times 1 and 2, respectively). There was weak agreement for ES between the Fitbit Aria and DXA (rs = 0.15 and 0.49 for Times 1 and 2, respectively). Correlations between methods to assess EI ranged from weak to strong, with agreement between the DXA/DLW-calculated EI and dietary recalls being the highest (rs = 0.63 for Time 1 and 0.73 for Time 2). Only EE from the Fitbit Alta at Time 1 was equivalent to the DLW value using equivalency testing.

Conclusions: Commercial devices provide estimates of energy balance in free-living adults with varying degrees of validity compared to gold-standard techniques. EE estimates were the most robust overall, whereas ES estimates were generally poor.

Keywords: consumer devices; energy balance; energy expenditure; energy intake; energy storage; measurement error modeling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Composition
  • Diet
  • Energy Intake*
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Self Report
  • Young Adult