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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BHNRC) » Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center » Food Surveys Research Group » Research » Research Project #426312

Research Project: What We Eat in America - Dietary Survey: Data Collection, Interpretation, Dissemination, and Methodology

Location: Food Surveys Research Group

2019 Annual Report

The overall objective of this project is to maintain and enhance the components of the USDA Dietary Intake Data System to assure that the dietary collection method, the USDA Automated Multiple Pass Method (AMPM), and the supporting systems and databases result in the collection of dietary data that are scientifically sound, accurate, and valid. Objective 1. Conduct research and disseminate data on dietary intakes of the U.S. population through nationwide surveys. Sub-objective 1-1. Oversee dietary data collection and coding. Sub-objective 1-2. Conduct data review and data processing. Sub-objective 1-3. Compile data and provide documentation for public release. Objective 2. Maintain and update supporting survey-related databases based upon scientifically sound research and utilization of technological innovations. Sub-objective 2-1. Update and enhance FNDDS to support the WWEIA data release and research needs. Sub-objective 2-2. Develop and update special purpose databases to support research and policy needs. Objective 3. Assess and update dietary data collection methods and quality control procedures to enhance accuracy of dietary survey data. Sub-objective 3-1. Enhance the protocol to track and identify market changes in foods and beverages to inform dietary data collection methodology. Sub-objective 3-2. Enhance the accuracy and precision of dietary survey data to meet research needs through improvements to data collection methods. Sub-objective 3-3. Document and report changes to dietary data collection methods in concert with WWEIA data releases. Objective 4. Analyze and interpret results from nationwide dietary surveys focusing research on topics to include nutritional adequacy of the American population and at-risk sub-groups, dietary patterns, interrelationships between food component intakes, public health nutritional concerns, and/or policy implications. Sub-objective 4-1. Assess and report on dietary status and nutritional adequacy of U.S. population and population subgroups. Sub-objective 4-2. Serve as expert resource in use of the dietary survey data.

The USDA AMPM is being used to collect 10,000 dietary recalls yearly in What We Eat In America, the dietary interview component of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The Food Surveys Research Group, having the lead responsibility for the dietary assessment component of NHANES, will focus on developing and implementing methods such that 1) the dietary collection method collects accurate data and is valid, 2) the data collected meet stakeholder needs and are released in a timely fashion, 3) the systems for data collection and processing are technologically advanced and efficient, 4) the dietary databases to support data analyses are scientifically sound and current so as to reflect the U.S. food supply at the time of data collection, 5) the data are interpreted and reported to address critical and pressing policy issues of the time, and 6) the applications developed for collection and processing are made available to the fullest extent possible. Special purpose databases to support specialized research policy needs, including the Food Patterns Equivalents Database used to assess American diets in relation to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, will be developed and maintained.

Progress Report
This is the final report for Project No. 8040-53000-018-00D. The major accomplishments over the lifespan of the project are summarized below. Through an ongoing collaboration with the National Center for Health Statistics, Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Food Surveys Research Group (FSRG) assumed the leadership role for the dietary data collection and processing of What We Eat in America (WWEIA), NHANES beginning in 2002. This collaboration has produced national dietary data research by the USDA and DHHS. WWEIA, NHANES dietary data for 2011-2012, 2013-2014, and 2015-2016 were jointly released on the Web by FSRG and DHHS, totaling nearly 48,000 individual dietary intake data records on more than 25,000 Americans. These data are unlike any other research conducted by the Federal government. They are used in monitoring the nutritional adequacy of the U.S. population, determining the relationship between dietary intake and health outcomes of the population, measuring the impact of food fortification on nutrient intakes, estimating exposure of population groups to contaminants thru the food system, developing dietary guidance for improved health and well-being with the most prominent being the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and assessing the demand for agricultural products. Linked with health indicators from other components of the NHANES, these data provide evidence of the relationships between eating patterns and health conditions. WWEIA, NHANES dietary intake data have been analyzed and results have been released on the Web including 56 summarized nutrient intake tables for each 2-year survey data release, comparisons of usual nutrient intakes from food and beverages to the National Academy of Sciences’ Dietary Reference Intakes, and dietary data briefs on 13 timely topics including late evening food and beverage consumption by adults; beverage choices of adults and children and their contribution to nutrient intakes; salad, sandwiches, and pizza consumption; and added sugars, calcium, phosphorus, fiber and MyPlate intakes of individuals. The availability of these tables and data briefs is beneficial in providing dietary survey results to food and nutrition program policy and decision makers in federal, state, local government, researchers at academic institutions, nutrition scientists and educators, and food and agricultural specialists in industry. The tables are accessible from Training workshops on using WWEIA, NHANES dietary data have been conducted by FSRG at scientific meetings for nutrition and health researchers as well as providing practicum experiences on using WWEIA, NHANES national dietary data for nutrition graduate students. One such workshop was held in conjunction with the 2019 annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition. Over 150 registered research scientists from 16 countries were represented, attesting to the importance of WWEIA, NHANES data for nutrition research. The Food and Nutrient Database for Dietary Studies (FNDDS), the technical database used to convert food and beverages as consumed in WWEIA, NHANES into gram amounts and determine their nutrient values, was developed for each of the two-year WWEIA, NHANES survey data releases during this project period and released on the Web. This included three such releases: FNDDS 2011-2012, FNDDS 2013-2014, and FNDDS 2015-2016. The FNDDS includes item descriptions, 40,000 portions and their gram weights, and 65 nutrient values for more than 8,500 foods and beverages typically consumed in the U.S during the timeframe designated by the release. Each FNDDS release consists of 12 unique datasets. New for FNDDS 2015-2016 was release of the data in an additional format allowing for quick view and search capability. A consumer-friendly companion to the FNDDS is the What’s In The Foods You Eat Search Tool which was released on the Web for each FNDDS version. This provides consumers an easy-to-use tool to determine the nutrient content of frequently consumed foods and beverages in 40,000 different portions. Over the three releases of FNDDS, foods/beverages, portions, and nutrient values are reviewed and updated. New food and beverage codes are added based on changes in consumption and the marketplace; additionally, codes are discontinued. A research resource was developed beginning with the 2013-2014 FNDSS to crosswalk appropriate discontinued food/beverage codes between FNDDS versions to benefit researchers conducting trend analysis or using the FNDDS to support other food intake databases. The Food Patterns Equivalents Databases (FPED) for 2011-2012, 2013-2014, and 2015-2016 were completed and released online. The FPED corresponds with specific 2-year data releases of WWEIA, NHANES to provide the analytical basis for researchers to evaluate diets based on the recommendations of the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Each release has several products including a number of databases and summary table sets on the mean intakes of the 37 Food Patterns Equivalents by 23 age-gender and socioeconomic subgroups. The WWEIA Food Categories, a classification scheme of 150 unique categories, was developed and released on the Web to provide an application to analyze foods and beverages as consumed in the American diet. A new version of the WWEIA Food Categories was produced for each 2-year release of WWEIA, NHANES. Components of the USDA Dietary Intake Data System have been shared extensively with the research community both nationally and internationally. Researchers from Canada, Denmark, and England were trained by FSRG on dietary intake research and are using components and/or methodological approaches of the system in their national dietary surveys.


Review Publications
Sebastian, R.S., Enns, C.W., Goldman, J.D., Hoy, M.K., Moshfegh, A.J. 2019. Findings from What We Eat in America, National Health and Examination Survey 2011-2014 support salad consumption as an effective strategy for improving adherence to dietary recommendations. Public Health Nutrition. 22(6):976-987.
Puthiery, V., Dodd, K.W., Zhao, L., Thompson-Paul, A.M., Mercado, C.I., Terry, A.L., Jackson, S.L., Wang, C., Loria, C.M., Moshfegh, A.J., Rhodes, D.G., Cogswell, M.E. 2019. Evaluation of measurement error in 24-hour dietary recall for assessing sodium and potassium intake among U.S. adults - National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 2014. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Moshfegh, A.J., Goldman, J.D., Adler, M.E., Anand, J., Clemens, J.C., Enns, C.W., Friday, J.E., Garceau, A.O., Hymes, M.A., Kovalchik, A.F., LaComb, R.P., Martin, C.L., Morton, S., Rhodes, D.G., Steinfeldt, L.C. 2018. What We Eat in America, NHANES 2015-2016: Documentation and Data Files. Worldwide Web Site: Food Surveys Research Group. Available:
Rhodes, D.G., Morton, S., Martin, C.L., Adler, M.E., Hymes, M.A., Garceau, A.O., Kovalchik, A.F., Sattgast, L., Steinfeldt, L.C., Clemens, J.C., Lacomb, R.P., Moshfegh, A.J. 2018. USDA Food and Nutrient Database for Dietary Studies (FNDDS), 2015-2016. Worldwide Web Site: Food Surveys Research Group. Available:
Bowman, S.A., Clemens, J.C., Shimizu, M., Friday, J.E., Moshfegh, A.J. 2018. Food Patterns Equivalents Database 2015-2016: Methodology and User Guide. Worldwide Web Site: Food Surveys Research Group. Available:
Bowman, S.A., Clemens, J.C., Shimizu, M., Friday, J.E., Moshfegh, A.J. 2018. Food Patterns Equivalent Intakes from Food: Mean Amounts Consumed per Individual, What We Eat in America, NHANES 2015-2016, Tables 1-4. Worldwide Web Site: Food Surveys Research Group. Available:
Kuczmarski, M.F., Sebastian, R.S., Goldman, J.D., Murayi, T., Steinfeldt, L.C., Eosso, J.R., Moshfegh, A.J., Zonderman, A.B., Evans, M.K. 2018. Dietary flavonoid intakes are associated with race but not income in an urban population. Nutrients. 10(11):1749.
Bowman, S.A., Clemens, J.C., Friday, J.E., Schroeder, N., Shimizu, M., LaComb, R.P., Moshfegh, A.J. 2018. Food Patterns Equivalents Intakes by Americans: What We Eat in America, NHANES 2003-2004 and 2015-2016. Worldwide Web Site: Food Surveys Research Group. Available:
Lobene, A.J., McCabe, L.D., Stone, M.S., Kindler, J.M., Bailey, R.L., Moshfegh, A.J., Rhodes, D.G., Goldman, J.D., McCabe, G.P., Weaver, C.M. 2018. Dietary mineral intake ratios and bone health in adults. In: Weaver C., Bischoff-Ferrari H., Daly R., Wong MS., editors. Nutritional Influences on Bone Health. Cham, Switzerland: Springer, Cham. p. 53-67.
Moshfegh, A.J., Goldman, J.D., Rhodes, D.G., Clemens, J.C., LaComb, R.P. 2019. Usual Nutrient Intake from Food and Beverages, by Gender and Age: What We Eat in America, NHANES 2013-2016. Worldwide Web Site: Food Surveys Research Group. Available:
Moshfegh, A.J., Garceau, A.O., Parker, E.A., Clemens, J.C. 2019. Beverage Choices among Adults: What We Eat in America, NHANES 2015-2016. Worldwide Web Site: Food Surveys Research Group. Available:
Moshfegh, A.J., Garceau, A.O., Parker, E.A., Clemens, J.C. 2019. Beverage Choices among Children: What We Eat in America, NHANES 2015-2016. Worldwide Web Site: Food Surveys Research Group. Available:
Sebastian, R.S., Enns, C.W., Goldman, J.D., Moshfegh, A.J. 2019. Late Evening Food and Beverage Consumption by Adults in the U.S.: What We Eat in America, NHANES 2013-2016. Worldwide Web Site: Food Surveys Research Group. Available:
Quader, Z.S., Zhao, L., Harnack, L.J., Gardner, C.D., Shikany, J.M., Steffen, L.M., Gillespie, C., Moshfegh, A.J., Cogswell, M.E. 2019. Self-reported measures of discretionary salt use accurately estimated sodium intake overall but not in certain subgroups of U.S. adults from 3 geographic regions in the Salt Sources Study. Journal of Nutrition.
Hoy, M.K., Sebastian, R.S., Goldman, J.D., Enns, C.W., Moshfegh, A.J. 2019. Consuming vegetable-based salad is associated with higher nutrient intakes and diet quality among U.S. adults, What We Eat in America, NHANES 2011-2014. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.