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J Am Diet Assoc. 1994 Mar;94(3):270-5.

Separating fact from artifact in changes in nutrient intake over time.

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  • 1Human Nutrition Information Service, US Department of Agriculture, Hyattsville, MD 20782.



To determine whether the differences between the procedures and nutrient databases used in the 1977-1978 Nationwide Food Consumption Survey (1977-78 NFCS) and those used in the 1987-88 NFCS could notably affect the estimated mean nutrient intakes.


This was a split-sample field experiment. Seventy-two area segments were randomly selected; 10 housing units were selected in each segment and randomly assigned to one of two experimental groups.


The study took place in the Philadelphia, Pa, metropolitan area.


The subjects were 697 women aged 20 to 49 years.


Group A was interviewed using 1987-88 NFCS 24-hour recall procedures and their nutrient intakes were calculated using the 1987-88 NFCS food codes, weight conversion factors, and nutrient database. Group B was interviewed using 1977-78 NFCS 24-hour recall procedures and nutrient intakes were calculated four ways using various combinations of 1987-88 and 1977-78 NFCS food codes, weight conversions, and nutrient database.


Mean intakes of food energy and 14 nutrients were calculated.


We used two-sample, multivariate t tests; univariate t tests; univariate repeated measures analysis of variance; and univariate paired t tests.


Changes in the nutrient database caused by improved analytic techniques and increased number of foods sampled were great enough to warrant revising the 1977-78 NFCS estimated intakes for iron, magnesium, and vitamins B-6 and B-12. Changes in intake of fat, vitamin A, and thiamin, however, were caused by real changes in foods so no revisions were necessary for these nutrients. Other nutrients were unaffected.


When considering changes in nutrient intake over time, it is important to correct the earlier food composition estimates so that they accurately reflect the composition of foods at the time they were consumed. This requires preserving the real differences in the composition of foods while correcting for artifactual differences attributable to improvements in the quality of nutrient data.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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