Assessing and meeting people’s nutrition and health needs is often made more difficult when they do not accurately report what and how much they eat, according to researchers at Pennsylvania State University.
The researchers studied diet information provided by 179 older people as part of a larger study on physical and psychological aspects of rural aging.
“Nutritional epidemiology is based on the premise that self-reported dietary intake is relatively accurate and reflective of habitual intake,” the researchers write, adding that previous research has found “pervasive errors” in people’s self-reported intake.
Among other results, they found the older adults in the study were much more likely to under-report their food intakes than to over-report how much they eat: Nearly one-fourth of the adults said they consumed less than the amount they statistically would need to eat to maintain their body weight.
In addition, the study found “under-reporters” are more likely than those who accurately report their calorie intake to be overweight, to be less-educated, to smoke and to eat less balanced overall diets.
The researchers conclude: “This study contributed to the growing body of literature that suggest subject characteristics (i.e., education and weight status) are related to reporting errors, these factors should be used to control for or taken into account in statistical models when examining relationships with diet and health.”