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Am J Clin Nutr. 2002 Mar;75(3):519-25.

Comparison of energy expenditure estimates from doubly labeled water, a physical activity questionnaire, and physical activity records.

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  • 1US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center, Diet and Human Performance Laboratory, Beltsville, MD 20705, USA.



Various methods are used by epidemiologists to estimate the energy cost of physical activity; these include physical activity records and recalls. However, there is limited validation of these methods against the doubly labeled water technique for determining energy expenditure (EE).


We compared EE as estimated by indirect methods (physical activity records and recall questionnaires) used in epidemiologic studies with EE obtained from doubly labeled water (EE(DLW)) in free-living men.


We determined EE(DLW), energy intake at weight maintenance, and EE from 7-d physical activity records (EE(Record)) and a 7-d physical activity recall questionnaire (EE(Recall)) in 24 men aged 41 plus minus 2.0 y ( plus minus SEM) with a body mass index (in kg/m(2)) of 25.1 plus minus 0.5.


There was excellent agreement between EE(DLW) (13.27 plus minus 0.35 MJ/d) and energy intake (13.19 plus minus 0.36 MJ/d), with a difference of 0.5 plus minus 1.0% ( plus minus SE). The indirect measures of physical activity and EE were 14.17 plus minus 0.37 MJ/d for EE(Record) (difference from EE(DLW): 7.9 plus minus 3.2%) and 17.40 plus minus 1.45 MJ/d for EE(Recall) (difference from EE(DLW): 30.6 plus minus 9.9%).


Seven-day physical activity records provide an acceptable estimate of EE in free-living adults compared with EE(DLW), but 7-d physical activity recalls have limited application to estimate daily EE. For optimal validity, the 7-d physical activity records require good subject compliance and the provision of careful instructions for their use.

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