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close this book Food Composition Data: A User's Perspective (1987)
close this folder Other considerations
close this folder Dietary assessment methods used by the national health and nutrition examination surveys (NHANES)
View the document (introductory text)
View the document Introduction
View the document Design of NHANES II
View the document Major nutrition-related components of NHANES II
View the document Uses of dietary data
View the document Plans for future NHANES
View the document Conclusion

Major nutrition-related components of NHANES II

Major nutrition-related components of NHANES II

The five major components of NHANES II were a household questionnaire, a medical history questionnaire, a dietary questionnaire, examination by a physician, and special procedures and tests. The household questionnaire consisted of questions about family relationship; age, sex, and race of family members; housing information; occupation, income, and education level of each family member; and participation in the food stamp programme and school breakfast and lunch programmes. Separate medical history questionnaires were used depending on the age of the sample person, one questionnaire for children of 6 months to 11 years and another for persons of 12 to 74 years. Both the household questionnaire and the medical history questionnaire were administered in the respondent's home.

When individuals arrived at the mobile examination centre, they were scheduled through the dietary interview, physician's examination, and special procedures and tests. The procedures and tests included body measurements for all, allergy tests for persons of 6 to 74, X-rays of persons of 25 through 74 except pregnant women (cervical spine, lumbar spine except women under 50 years, and chest), and urine and blood tests. From blood samples taken in the centre, a number of nutrition-related assays were done. These included serum albumin, serum vitamins A and C, serum lipids (cholesterol, triglycerides, and high-density lipoproteins), protoporphyrin, serum iron, total iron-binding capacity, serum zinc, and serum copper. Red cell folates, serum folates, serum ferritin, and serum vitamin B12 were determined on blood samples with abnormal complete blood count, haemoglobin, haematocrit, or MCV, and on a subsample of normals.

The dietary questionnaires consisted of a 24-hour recall, a food-frequency questionnaire, a dietary-supplement questionnaire, and specific questions on medication, vitamin, and mineral supplement usage. All interviews were conducted by trained interviewers who had at least a bachelor's degree in home economics.

In the 24-hour recall, respondents were asked to report all foods and beverages consumed on the previous day. Respondents estimated the size of the portions consumed by referring to food models. In addition to foods and portion sizes, interviewers asked about what time of day the food was eaten and its source. The time of day was coded as one of five ingestion periods: morning, noon, between meals, evening, or total day. The source of the food was coded as home, school, restaurant, or other.

Each food item was coded by the interviewer within 72 hours of the interview. The food code book developed for the survey contained five-digit food codes for approximately 2,500 food items. Each food item was identified by name (including brand names if appropriate), by whether it was raw, dry, or frozen, by how it was prepared, and, for mixed dishes without food codes, by major ingredients. A food composition data base updated from NHANES I was used to calculate the energy, vitamin, and mineral content of the reported foods. Modifications to the NHANES I data base included new data from VSDA's revised Handbook No. 8, and food composition data from food companies on new products and brand-name products of unique formulation.

The food-frequency questionnaire elicited information about the consumption of 18 food groups over the previous three months. Frequency was given one of four possible codes: a whole number, never, less than once a week, or unknown. The interval at which the food was usually eaten was also given one of four possible codes: never, daily, weekly, or less than weekly. One question was asked about use of vitamin and mineral supplements, and one about how often the salt shaker was used at the table. Responses to this last question could be assigned to one of three codes: rarely or never, occasionally or seldom, frequently or always.

The dietary-supplement questionnaire contained questions about whether the respondent was on a special diet, what type, and for how long. One question asked about the possible use of nine medications in the previous week. These were commonly prescribed medications that might interfere with test results or affect interpretation of results. Another question related to problems preventing the respondent from obtaining needed groceries. The final question asked about trouble swallowing, pain, nausea and vomiting following eating, and loss of appetite.

The medication, vitamin, and mineral usage questionnaire requested specific information about brand name, manufacturer's name, and reason for using vitamin or mineral supplements and medications.

The quality of the dietary component was controlled at several levels. Before the survey began, the dietary interviewers were trained in interview techniques and in how to code the 24hour recall. A manual was issued to each interviewer which described the procedures to be followed. Periodically, the forms were reviewed and evaluated, and instructions were issued to the interviewers to promote consistency. Interviewers exchanged coded 24-hour recall forms to check each other's work, and forms were also reviewed by the field staff before being forwarded to headquarters. At every location, each interviewer tape-recorded two interviews with randomly selected subjects. The recordings were evaluated at headquarters for adherence to procedures. Comparisons were made at headquarters of the mean values and frequency distributions by stand location and by interviewer to detect unusual results by location and systematic errors by interviewers. Foods for which no appropriate food codes existed were forwarded to headquarters for assignment of new code numbers.