There is considerable uncertainty regarding the validity of dietary data collected from free-living populations. Nevertheless, few attempts have been made to validate dietary assessment instruments. To address this issue, we compared average daily protein intake estimated from 24-hour dietary recall interviews to protein intake estimated from urinary nitrogen excretion in 24-hour samples. Among 244 community-dwelling adults who volunteered for a hypertension study, men (n = 139) overreported dietary protein intake by 12 to 19%. In contrast, women (n = 105) reported a dietary protein intake almost exactly in agreement with estimates based on urinary nitrogen levels. Thin men reported about one-third more protein intake than was reflected in their urinary nitrogen measurements. Our results suggest that the accuracy of dietary recall estimates may vary across subgroups of the population. Additional information from sufficiently large validation studies would be helpful in determining the role of dietary assessment instruments which are already in wide use in epidemiologic research. Until such information is obtained, doubts will remain regarding the validity of inferences drawn from nutritional epidemiologic studies.
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