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Food energy content influences food portion size estimation by nutrition students

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Abstract Background: 

Food portion size estimation involves a complex mental process that may influence food consumption evaluation. Knowing the variables that influence this process can improve the accuracy of dietary assessment. The present study aimed to evaluate the ability of nutrition students to estimate food portions in usual meals and relate food energy content with errors in food portion size estimation. Methods: 

Seventy-eight nutrition students, who had already studied food energy content, participated in this cross-sectional study on the estimation of food portions, organised into four meals. The participants estimated the quantity of each food, in grams or millilitres, with the food in view. Estimation errors were quantified, and their magnitude were evaluated. Estimated quantities (EQ) lower than 90% and higher than 110% of the weighed quantity (WQ) were considered to represent underestimation and overestimation, respectively. Correlation between food energy content and error on estimation was analysed by the Spearman correlation, and comparison between the mean EQ and WQ was accomplished by means of the Wilcoxon signed rank test (P < 0.05). Results: 

A low percentage of estimates (18.5%) were considered accurate (±10% of the actual weight). The most frequently underestimated food items were cauliflower, lettuce, apple and papaya; the most often overestimated items were milk, margarine and sugar. A significant positive correlation between food energy density and estimation was found (r = 0.8166; P = 0.0002). Conclusions: 

The results obtained in the present study revealed a low percentage of acceptable estimations of food portion size by nutrition students, with trends toward overestimation of high-energy food items and underestimation of low-energy items.

Keywords: dietary assessment; dietary survey; food perception; food portion size

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2010-06-01

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