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J Nutr. 1987 Sep;117(9):1638-41.

Number of days of food intake records required to estimate individual and group nutrient intakes with defined confidence.

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  • 1Nutrition Education Division, Human Nutrition Information Service, Hyattsville, MD 20782.


The number of days of food intake data needed to estimate the intake of 29 male (n = 13) and female (n = 16) adult subjects, individually and as a group, was determined for food energy and 18 nutrients. The food intake records were collected in a year-long study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center. Each individual's average intake of nutrients and standard deviation over the year were assumed to reflect his or her "usual" intake and day-to-day variability. Confidence intervals (P less than 0.05) for each individual's usual intake were constructed, and from these the number of days of dietary records needed for estimated individual and group intake to be within 10% of usual intake was calculated. The results indicated that the number of days of food intake records needed to predict the usual nutrient intake of an individual varied substantially among individuals for the same nutrient and within individuals for different nutrients; e.g., food energy required the fewest days (averaging 31) and vitamin A the most (averaging 433). This was considerably higher than the number of days needed to estimate mean nutrient intake for this group, which ranged from 3 for food energy to 41 for vitamin A. Fewer days would be needed for larger groups.

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