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NORC News

UAB investigators and international team argue against use of self-reported intake and activity

November 24, 2014


Energy intake (EI) and physical activity energy expenditure (PAEE) are key modifiable determinants of energy balance, traditionally assessed by self-report despite its repeated demonstration of considerable inaccuracies.

Andrew W. Brown, PhD, scientist in the Office of Energetics, and David B. Allison, PhD, distinguished professor and director of the Nutrition Obesity Research Center (NORC)—in collaboration with Madeline Jeansonne, MPH, Program Coordinator I in the Office of Energetics, and an international group of experts—recently argued that it is time to move beyond the common view that self-reports of EI and PAEE are imperfect but nevertheless deserving of use, to a view commensurate with the evidence that self-reports of EI and PAEE are so poor that they are wholly unacceptable for scientific research or policy about actual EI and PAEE.

While new strategies for objectively determining energy balance are in their infancy, the team opined that it is unacceptable to use decidedly inaccurate instruments, which may misguide health care policies, future research, and clinical judgment. Therefore, the scientific and medical communities should discontinue making conclusions about EI and PAEE based on self-report. Instead, researchers and sponsors should develop and support objective measures of energy balance.

To read “Energy Balance Measurement: When Something Is Not Better than Nothing,” published in November 2014 in the International Journal of Obesity, click here.