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Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ)

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NINDS CDE Notice of Copyright Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ) Link

Supplemental: Huntington's Disease (HD), Parkinson's Disease (PD)
Exploratory: Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) (recommended for ages 18 years and older)
Short Description of Instrument
The Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ) is the most commonly used dietary assessment instrument for large epidemiological studies because it collects "usual" diet information at a low cost to researchers and imposes a low burden to survey participants. The FFQ consists of a list of foods with little descriptive detail, and the respondent answers questions about the frequency of each food on the list. A FFQ food composition database links each food in the list to its associated food component values.
Purpose: To assess the usual dietary intake of participants over a specified period of time.
Construct measured: Dietary intake
Generic vs. disease-specific: Generic
Means of administration: Self
Intended respondent: Patient
Number of items: 18 questions
# of subscales and names of sub-scales: N/A
# of items per sub-scale: N/A
Comments/Special Instructions
Scoring: Questionnaires are optically scanned, and nutrient intakes are computed electronically using an updated database maintained by the Harvard nutrition group.
Age range: N/A
Psychometric properties: There are several studies that demonstrate that this questionnaire can provide useful information on a person's dietary intake for a certain period of time.
Strengths: Comprehensive and validated assessment of diet. Used in hundreds of investigations on chronic diseases. Updated nutrient database used for derivation of nutrients.
Weaknesses: Not appropriate for assessment of changes in diet over short periods of time (weeks or months). As for all methods based on recall, use in case control studies susceptible to recall bias.
Psychometric Properties: N/A
Reliability and validity: Variable depending on food item - see Salvini et al., 1989.
Sensitivity to Change: Good only over long period of time (years)
Relationships to other variables: N/A
Willett WC. (2012). Nutritional Epidemiology: 40 (Monographs in Epidemiology and Biostatistics) (3rd ed.). New York: Oxford University Willett WC. (2012). Nutritional Epidemiology: 40 (Monographs in Epidemiology and Biostatistics) (3rd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.
Additional References:
Salvini S, Hunter DJ, Sampson L, Stampfer MJ, Colditz GA, Rosner B, Willett WC. Food-based validation of a dietary questionnaire: the effects of week-to-week variation in food consumption. Int J Epidemiol. 1989;18(4):858-867.
Tabacchi G, Amodio E, Di Pasquale M, Bianco A, Jemni M, Mammina C. Validation and reproducibility of dietary assessment methods in adolescents: a systematic literature review. Public Health Nutr. 2014;17(12):2700-2714.
Willett WC, Reynolds RD, Cottrell-Hoehner S, Sampson L, Browne ML. Validation of a semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire: comparison with a 1-year diet record. J Am Diet Assoc. 1987;87(1):43-47.
Willett WC, Stampfer MJ, Underwood BA, Speizer FE, Rosner B, Hennekens CH. Validation of a dietary questionnaire with plasma carotenoid and alpha-tocopherol levels. Am J Clin Nutr. 1983;38(4):631-639.


Document last updated April 2020