British Journal of Nutrition

Full Papers

Dietary Surveys and Nutritional Epidemiology

Evaluating the effect of measurement error when using one or two 24 h dietary recalls to assess eating out: a study in the context of the HECTOR project

Philippos Orfanosa1, Sven Knüppela2, Androniki Naskaa1, Jennifer Haubrocka2, Antonia Trichopouloua1a3 c1 and Heiner Boeinga2

a1 WHO Collaborating Center for Food and Nutrition Policies, Department of Hygiene, Epidemiology and Medical Statistics, University of Athens Medical School, Athens, Greece

a2 Department of Epidemiology, German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbrücke, Nuthetal, Germany

a3 Hellenic Health Foundation, Athens, Greece


Eating out is often recorded through short-term measurements and the large within-person variability in intakes may not be adequately captured. The present study aimed to understand the effect of measurement error when using eating-out data from one or two 24 h dietary recalls (24hDR), in order to describe intakes and assess associations between eating out and personal characteristics. In a sample of 366 adults from Potsdam, Germany, two 24hDR and a FFQ were collected. Out-of-home intakes were estimated based on either one 24hDR or two 24hDR or the Multiple Source Method (MSM) combining the two 24hDR and the questionnaire. The distribution of out-of-home intakes of energy, macronutrients and selected foods was described. Multiple linear regression and partial correlation coefficients were estimated to assess associations between out-of-home energy intake and participants' characteristics. The mean daily out-of-home intakes estimated from the two 24hDR were similar to the usual intakes estimated through the MSM. The out-of-home energy intake, estimated through either one or two 24hDR, was positively associated with total energy intake, inversely with age and associations were stronger when using the two 24hDR. A marginally significant inverse association between out-of-home energy intake and physical activity at work was observed only on the basis of the two 24hDR. After applying the MSM, all significant associations remained and were more precise. Data on eating out collected through one or two 24hDR may not adequately describe intake distributions, but significant associations between eating out and participants' characteristics are highly unlikely to appear when in reality these do not exist.

(Received April 27 2012)

(Revised January 03 2013)

(Accepted January 03 2013)

(Online publication February 25 2013)

Key Words:

  • Eating out;
  • 24 h Recalls;
  • Measurement errors;
  • Diet;
  • HECTOR project


c1 Corresponding author: Dr A. Trichopoulou, fax +30 210 746 2079, email


  Abbreviations: 24hDR, 24 h dietary recall; MSM, Multiple Source Method; PA, physical activity