The authors investigated the role of food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) design, including length, use of portion-size questions, and FFQ origin, in ranking subjects according to their nutrient intake. They also studied the ability of the FFQ to detect differences in energy intake between subgroups and to assess energy and protein intake. In a meta-analysis of 40 validation studies, FFQs with longer food lists (200 items) were better than shorter FFQs at ranking subjects for most nutrients; results were statistically significant for protein, energy-adjusted total fat, and energy-adjusted vitamin C. The authors found that FFQs that included standard portions had higher correlation coefficients for energy-adjusted vitamin C (0.80 vs. 0.60, p < 0.0001) and protein (0.69 vs. 0.61, p = 0.03) than FFQs with portion-size questions. However, it remained difficult from this review to analyze the effects of using portion-size questions. FFQs slightly underestimated gender differences in energy intake, although level of energy intake was underreported by 23% and level of protein intake by 17%. The authors concluded that FFQs with more items are better able to rank people according to their intake and that they are able to distinguish between subpopulations, even though they underestimated the magnitude of these differences.
Molag, M. L., de Vries, J. H., Ocke, M. C., Dagnelie, P. C., van den Brandt, P. A., Jansen, M. C., van Staveren, W. A., & van 't Veer, P. (2007). Design characteristics of food frequency questionnaires in relation to their validity. American Journal of Epidemiology, 166(12), 1468-1478. https://doi.org/10.1093/aje/kwm236