University Of Tasmania
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Retrospectively estimating energy intake and misreporting from a qualitative food frequency questionnaire: An example using Australian cohort and national survey data

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Qualitative food frequency questionnaires (Q-FFQ) omit portion size information from dietary assessment. This restricts researchers to consumption frequency data, limiting investigations of dietary composition (i.e., energy-adjusted intakes) and misreporting. To support such researchers, we provide an instructive example of Q-FFQ energy intake estimation that derives typical portion size information from a reference survey population and evaluates misreporting. A sample of 1,919 Childhood Determinants of Adult Health Study (CDAH) participants aged 26–36 years completed a 127-item Q-FFQ. We assumed sex-specific portion sizes for Q-FFQ items using 24-h dietary recall data from the 2011–2012 Australian National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey (NNPAS) and compiled energy density values primarily using the Australian Food Composition Database. Total energy intake estimation was daily equivalent frequency × portion size (g) × energy density (kJ/g) for each Q-FFQ item, summed. We benchmarked energy intake estimates against a weighted sample of age-matched NNPAS respondents (n = 1,383). Median (interquartile range) energy intake was 9,400 (7,580–11,969) kJ/day in CDAH and 9,055 (6,916–11,825) kJ/day in weighted NNPAS. Median energy intake to basal metabolic rate ratios were 1.43 (1.15–1.78) in CDAH and 1.35 (1.03–1.74) in weighted NNPAS, indicating notable underreporting in both samples, with increased levels of underreporting among the overweight and obese. Using the Goldberg and predicted total energy expenditure methods for classifying misreporting, 65 and 41% of CDAH participants had acceptable/plausible energy intake estimates, respectively. Excluding suspected CDAH misreporters improved the plausibility of energy intake estimates, concordant with expected body weight associations. This process can assist researchers wanting an estimate of energy intake from a Q-FFQ and to evaluate misreporting, broadening the scope of diet–disease investigations that depend on consumption frequency data.


Publication title

Frontiers in Nutrition








Tasmanian School of Medicine


Frontiers Research Foundation

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Copyright © 2021 Goode, Smith, Kilpatrick, Breslin, Oddy, Dwyer, Venn and Magnussen. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) License (

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