Report Viewer

NINDS CDE Notice of Copyright
Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ)
Please visit this website for more information about the instrument: Food Frequency Questionnaire
Supplemental: Huntington's Disease (HD) and 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. An 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
Age range: N/A
Scoring and Psychometric Properties
Scoring: Questionnaires are optically scanned, and nutrient intakes are computed electronically using an updated database maintained by the Harvard nutrition group.
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.
Reliability and validity: Variable depending on food item - see (Salvini et al., 1989; Al-Shaar et al., 2021; Yuan et al., 2018).
Sensitivity to Change: Good only over long period of time (years)
Relationships to other variables: N/A
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.  
Key Reference:
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:
Al-Shaar L, Yuan C, Rosner B, Dean SB, Ivey KL, Clowry CM, Sampson LA, Barnett JB, Rood J, Harnack LJ, Block J, Manson JE, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC, Rimm EB. Reproducibility and Validity of a Semiquantitative Food Frequency Questionnaire in Men Assessed by Multiple Methods. Am J Epidemiol. 2021 Jun 1;190(6):1122-1132.
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 Dec;18(4):858-67.
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 Dec;17(12):2700-14.
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 Jan;87(1):43-7.
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 Oct;38(4):631-9.
Yuan C, Spiegelman D, Rimm EB, Rosner BA, Stampfer MJ, Barnett JB, Chavarro JE, Rood JC, Harnack LJ, Sampson LK, Willett WC. Relative Validity of Nutrient Intakes Assessed by Questionnaire, 24-Hour Recalls, and Diet Records as Compared With Urinary Recovery and Plasma Concentration Biomarkers: Findings for Women. Am J Epidemiol. 2018 May 1;187(5):1051-1063.
Document last updated August 2022