Background: Measurement error in self-reported sugars intake may be obscuring the association between sugars and cancer risk in nutritional epidemiologic studies.
Methods: We used 24-hour urinary sucrose and fructose as a predictive biomarker for total sugars, to assess measurement error in self-reported sugars intake. The Nutrition and Physical Activity Assessment Study (NPAAS) is a biomarker study within the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) Observational Study that includes 450 postmenopausal women ages 60 to 91 years. Food Frequency Questionnaires (FFQ), four-day food records (4DFR), and three 24-hour dietary recalls (24HRs) were collected along with sugars and energy dietary biomarkers.
Results: Using the biomarker, we found self-reported sugars to be substantially and roughly equally misreported across the FFQ, 4DFR, and 24HR. All instruments were associated with considerable intake- and person-specific bias. Three 24HRs would provide the least attenuated risk estimate for sugars (attenuation factor, AF = 0.57), followed by FFQ (AF = 0.48) and 4DFR (AF = 0.32), in studies of energy-adjusted sugars and disease risk. In calibration models, self-reports explained little variation in true intake (5%-6% for absolute sugars and 7%-18% for sugars density). Adding participants' characteristics somewhat improved the percentage variation explained (16%-18% for absolute sugars and 29%-40% for sugars density).
Conclusions: None of the self-report instruments provided a good estimate of sugars intake, although overall 24HRs seemed to perform the best.
Impact: Assuming the calibrated sugars biomarker is unbiased, this analysis suggests that measuring the biomarker in a subsample of the study population for calibration purposes may be necessary for obtaining unbiased risk estimates in cancer association studies.
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