Background Selection of validated dietary assessment tools (DAT) is challenging. Researchers are often unable to identify available tools or gain access to them. Development of new tools is difficult, due to lack of appropriate guidance; inability to identify which foods to include and the need to link these to food composition tables. The DIET@NET (Dietary Assessment tools network) partnership aims to create a dietary assessment website to provide guidelines for selection of tools, with access to previously validated questionnaires. In addition, to create a novel platform for creation of new food questionnaires.
Methods Development of the Nutritools website was divided into 3 strands. 1) Creation of Best Practice Guidelines (BPG) for dietary assessment; generated with a Delphi method to generate consensus amongst expert views. 2) Creation of an interactive DAT e-library, with tools being identified through a systematic review of systematic reviews. 3) Creation of an online platform to create new questionnaires.
Results The Delphi consultation generated 43 BPG and a summary of the strengths and weaknesses of the dietary assessment methods. The interactive BPG enables researchers to choose the most appropriate dietary assessment tool. The systematic review of systematic reviews resulted in identification of 62 tools validated in UK populations. Detailed information on these tools is provided in the DAT e-library. Visual representation of this data through two interactive plots (bubble and summary plots) allows researchers to compare between the DATs. Only 9 of the tools date from 2010 onwards; many tools identified are no longer available or need updating. Existing validated food questionnaires have been transformed and updated from paper-based to web-based using the novel FQC. Foods are mapped to the latest food composition database. In addition, new online food questionnaires can be created through guided food selection with database mapping. New tools will support online data entry and analysis. At present, the FQC only provides UK dietary assessment tools and databases but it has the capability to allow for international databases and tools to be added.
Conclusion The Nutritools website, www.nutritools.org provides a central resource for researchers undertaking studies which require dietary measurement. By providing guidance and access to validated DATs, the quality, consistency and comparability of dietary assessment in public health and epidemiology can be improved. The Food Questionnaire Creator, is a unique feature of the site which will encourage a more standardised approach to dietary assessment.
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