Relative validation of a food frequency questionnaire to estimate food intake in an adult population

  • Nina Steinemann
  • Leticia Grize
  • Katrin Ziesemer
  • Peter Kauf
  • Nicole Probst-Hensch
  • Christine Brombach
Keywords: Food frequency questionnaire, weighed food record, validation study, dietary assessment, nutrient intake, food group intake, epidemiological studies


Background : Scientifically valid descriptions of dietary intake at population level are crucial for investigating diet effects on health and disease. Food frequency questionnaires (FFQs) are the most common dietary tools used in large epidemiological studies.

Objective : To examine the relative validity of a newly developed FFQ to be used as dietary assessment tool in epidemiological studies.

Design : Validity was evaluated by comparing the FFQ and a 4-day weighed food record (4-d FR) at nutrient and food group levels, Spearman’s correlations, Bland–Altman analysis and Wilcoxon rank sum tests were used. Fifty-six participants completed a paper format FFQ and a 4-d FR within 4 weeks.

Results : Corrected correlations between the two instruments ranged from 0.27 (carbohydrates) to 0.55 (protein), and at food group level from 0.09 (soup) to 0.92 (alcohol). Nine out of 25 food groups showed correlations > 0.5, indicating moderate validity. More than half the food groups were overestimated in the FFQ, especially vegetables (82.8%) and fruits (56.3%). Water, tea and coffee were underestimated (–14.0%).

Conclusions : The FFQ showed moderate relative validity for protein and the food groups fruits, egg, meat, sausage, nuts, salty snacks and beverages. This study supports the use of the FFQ as an acceptable tool for assessing nutrition as a health determinant in large epidemiological studies.


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How to Cite
Steinemann N., Grize L., Ziesemer K., Kauf P., Probst-Hensch N., & Brombach C. (2017). Relative validation of a food frequency questionnaire to estimate food intake in an adult population. Food & Nutrition Research, 61. Retrieved from
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