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J Nutr. 2003 Feb;133(2):510-5.

Portion size adds limited information on variance in food intake of participants in the EPIC-Potsdam study.

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German Institute of Human Nutrition, Department of Epidemiology, Bergholz-Rehbruecke, Germany.


Food-frequency questionnaire (FFQ) data should reflect interindividual variation and therefore measure variance in intake among populations. We conducted this analysis to evaluate the relevance of separate portion size questions to the interindividual variation in food intake. The contribution of portion size questions to the variance in food intake was quantified and compared with the variance when group-specific portion sizes would be assigned, using 26,764 FFQ of the European Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC)-Potsdam Study. Groups were defined according to gender, age (<50 y, >/=50 y) or body mass index (BMI) (<26 kg/m(2), >/=26 kg/m(2)). The FFQ inquired about both consumption frequency and portion size. Linear regression models for each food item were fit with intake (g/d) as dependent variables and frequency of intake as independent variables. The mean coefficient of determination (R(2)) for the different food items explained by frequency only was 84.0% (71.2-95.7%). The R(2) for gender-, age- and BMI-specific frequencies of intake did not markedly alter the overall results. We conclude that the omission of individual portion size information would probably result in a notable reduction of interindividual variance. However, to reduce the respondents' burden and to increase data completeness in self-administration in large epidemiologic studies, the assignment of a constant portion size seems to be adequate. The variance was not increased markedly when constant gender-, age- and BMI-specific portion sizes were applied, thus supporting the assignment of an overall portion size.

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