FFQ versus repeated 24-h recalls for estimating diet-related environmental impact

E. Mertens*, A. Kuijsten, J.M. Geleijnse, H.C. Boshuizen, E.J.M. Feskens, P. van 't Veer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Background: There is an increasing interest in estimating environmental impact of individuals’ diets by using individual-level food consumption data. However, like assessment of nutrient intakes, these data are prone to substantial measurement errors dependent on the method of dietary assessment, and this often result in attenuation of associations. Purpose: To investigate the performance of a food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) for estimating the environmental impact of the diet as compared to independent 24-h recalls (24hR), and to study the association between environmental impact and dietary quality for the FFQ and 24hR. Methods: We analysed cross-sectional data from 1169 men and women, aged 20–76 years, who participated in the NQplus study, the Netherlands. They completed a 216-item FFQ and two replicates of web-based 24hR. Life cycle assessments of 207 food products were used to calculate greenhouse gas emissions, fossil energy and land use, summarised into an aggregated score, pReCiPe. Validity of the FFQ was evaluated against 24hRs using correlation coefficients and attenuation coefficients. Associations with dietary quality were based on Dutch Healthy Diet 15-index (DHD15-index) and Nutrient Rich Diet score (NRD9.3). Results: For pReCiPe, correlation coefficient between FFQ and 24hR was 0.33 when adjusted for covariates age, gender and BMI, and increased to 0.76 when de-attenuated for within-subject variation in the 24hR. Energy-adjustment slightly reduced these correlations (r = 0.71 for residuals of observed values and 0.59 for residuals of density values). Covariate-adjusted attenuation coefficient for the FFQ was 0.56 (ʎ1 = 0.56 and ʎ1 = 0.65 for observed and density residuals), slightly lower than without covariate adjustment. Diet-related environmental impact was inversely associated with the food-based DHD15-index for both FFQ and 24hR, while associations with the nutrient-based NRD9.3 were inconsistent. Conclusions: The FFQ slightly underestimated environmental impact when compared to 24hR. Associations with dietary quality are highly dependent on the diet score used, and less dependent on the method of dietary assessment.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2
JournalNutrition Journal
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jan 2019


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