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Relative validity of the food frequency questionnaire used to assess dietary intake in the Leiden Longevity Study

Martinette T Streppel1*, Jeanne HM de Vries1, Saskia Meijboom1, Marian Beekman24, Anton JM de Craen3, P Eline Slagboom24 and Edith JM Feskens1

Author affiliations

1 Division of Human Nutrition, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands

2 Department of Molecular Epidemiology, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, The Netherlands

3 Department of Gerontology and Geriatrics, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, The Netherlands

4 Netherlands Consortium for Healthy Ageing, Leiden, The Netherlands

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Citation and License

Nutrition Journal 2013, 12:75  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-12-75

Published: 7 June 2013



Invalid information on dietary intake may lead to false diet-disease associations. This study was conducted to examine the relative validity of the food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) used to assess dietary intake in the Leiden Longevity Study.


A total of 128 men and women participating in the Leiden Longevity Study were included in the present validation study. The performance of the FFQ was evaluated using the mean of three 24-hour recalls as the reference method. Evaluation in estimating dietary intake at the group level was done by paired t-tests. The relative validity of the individual energy adjusted level of intake was assessed with correlation analyses (Pearson’s), with correction for measurement error.


On group level, the FFQ overestimated as well as underestimated absolute intake of various nutrients and foods. The Bland and Altman plot for total energy intake showed that the agreement between the FFQ and the 24-hour recalls was dependent of intake level. Pearson correlation coefficients ranged from 0.21 (alpha linolenic acid) to 0.78 (ethanol) for nutrients and from -0.02 (legumes, non-significant) to 0.78 (alcoholic beverages) for foods. Adjustment for energy intake slightly lowered the correlation coefficients for nutrients (mean coefficient: 0.48 versus 0.50), while adjustment for within-subject variation in the 24-h recalls resulted in higher correlation coefficients for both nutrients and foods (mean coefficient: 0.69 for nutrients and 0.65 for foods).


For most nutrients and foods, the ability of the FFQ to rank subjects was acceptable to good.

Relative validity; Food frequency questionnaire; 24-hour recall