National Cancer Institute NCI Cancer Bulletin: A Trusted Source for Cancer Research News
February 10, 2009 • Volume 6 / Number 3

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Cancer.gov Update

New Dietary Data Available Online

NCI researchers have developed a new method for estimating long-term dietary intakes in the U.S. population and have applied it to National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data, the primary source of diet and health data for the U.S. population. Until recently, efforts to capture food intakes over time have been limited at best. This new method enables researchers to monitor people’s diets relative to recommendations and to assess the scope of dietary deficiencies and excesses.

Tables presenting estimated means and percentiles of food intakes for a range of sex-age groups in the U.S. population between 2001 and 2004 are available online. NCI staff shared these data with the Federal Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, whose members were interested to learn the extent of imbalances in the U.S. diet.

Further details about the NCI method of usual intake estimation, statistical methods used, and a copy of the 2003–2006 NHANES Food Frequency Questionnaire can be found online.

NHANES Dietary Web Tutorial Guides Data Users

NHANES logo

NCI, the National Center for Health Statistics, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently developed a Web-based tutorial to promote broader and more proficient use of NHANES diet and health data. This is one of a series of NHANES tutorials. Previous tutorials are already used widely, including by universities in their public health courses.

NHANES dietary data are especially complicated because data from the 24-hour recalls, food frequency questionnaire, and dietary supplement questionnaire each measure different aspects of dietary intake, cover different time periods, and are collected differently.

The NHANES Dietary Web Tutorial guides users through the data and offers instructions on how to retrieve dietary data files and supplementary information; correctly prepare a dietary dataset and create appropriate food and nutrient variables; and correctly conduct basic as well as more advanced analyses. Three courses have been accredited to offer continuing education units.