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Food frequency questionnaires

Sometimes studies need to identify patterns of food consumption in a large population. This is done, for instance, as part of a general population health survey. These are done on a fairly regular basis, usually funded by governments, to be proactive in the formulation of heath related polices. This saves our tax money in the long run.

Food history questionnaires are related to food recalls in that they collect information on commonly eaten foods. These questionnaires tend to be simpler in that they do not seek to know each individual food that was eaten. They ask questions like “When you eat pasta how much do you eat and do you eat it once a week, or 3-5 times a month”. You get the idea. Typically a food history questionnaire will have fewer than 100 such questions.

Before a questionnaire like this can be formulated it is wise to know what kinds of foods the population usually eats. A smaller number of individuals are asked what they ate recently, using the recall format. Using the example above, from the results of these recalls, a pattern of “pasta” consumption can be determined. A composite “pasta” food can then be created and used as the nutrient profile for the “pasta” question in the food history questionnaire.

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