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24-Hour national dietary survey data : how do we interpret them most effectively?

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journal contribution
posted on 2005-01-01, 00:00 authored by D Mackerras, I Rutsihauser
Objective To illustrate the effect of common mistakes when using 24-hour national dietary survey data to estimate the prevalence of inadequate nutrient intakes.

Design Raw data on nutrient intake from the Australian 1995 National Nutrition Survey were adjusted for within-person variance using standard techniques and corrected for underreporting using the criteria of Goldberg et al. The distributions for six nutrients were compared with current dietary reference values from the UK, USA and Australia.

Setting A national sample of the Australian population with a 61.4% response rate.

Results Adjusting for within-person variance reduced the range of nutrient intakes to 66–80% of the raw data range and the proportion with intakes below the estimated average requirement (EAR) by up to 20%. Excluding underreporters further reduced the proportion below the EAR by up to 10%. Using the dietary reference values from different countries also resulted in some markedly different estimates. For example, the prevalence of low folate intakes ranged from <1 to 92% for adult women depending on the reference used. Except for vitamin A and protein, the prevalence of low intakes was invariably higher for women than for men.

Conclusions Estimates of the prevalence of low nutrient intakes based on raw 24-hour survey data are invariably misleading. However, even after adjustment for within-person variance and underreporting, estimates of the prevalence of low nutrient intakes may still be misleading unless interpreted in the light of the reference criteria used and supported by relevant biochemical and physiological measures of nutritional status.



Public health nutrition






657 - 665


Cambridge University Press


Cambridge, England







Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2005, The Authors