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Dietary Intake Assessments – When Experience Counts

Written by Creme Global
10/03/2021

Welcome to our series of dietary assessment method reviews. Today we’re talking about the National Cancer Institute (NCI) usual dietary intake method, which models particular aspects of foods and nutrients consumed during the previous 24-hour period.

What is the NCI Method?

The US based NCI created a method to estimate the usual or habitual amount of food, or nutrients eaten by populations, known as the NCI method. By asking a subgroup of people to recall the foods they consumed over the last 24 hours, the NCI method can then use sophisticated mathematical models to account for the variability that exists between individuals as well as the variability within the same person’s habits. It sounds simple, but if you were asked for example, how many cups of coffee have you had today? Even for the most regular coffee drinker, the amount they consumed may vary considerably from day to day, which can be a problem. The NCI method uses 24 hour recall type data (2 non consecutive days) to assess ‘habitual intakes’, specifically the higher and lower percentiles (consumers) will change when applying this model. This method addresses some, but not all, of the measurement error issues that arise when analysing 24-hour recall data, so it’s critical to have an experienced person work on this, in order to deliver real value and benefit.

Why use it?

Lots of different organisations such as food manufacturers, regulators and other government departments need to know the average food and nutrients eaten by a population or subpopulation. One of the benefits of the NCI method is that it accounts for the variability that exists between individuals as well as the variability within the same person’s habits. Interestingly the NCI method can even help when assessing the relationship between an average daily diet and the impact it could have on the future health of a population. Interestingly the NCI method can even help when assessing the relationship between an average daily diet and the impact it could have on the future health of a population.

Making a complex method easy to use

As this method is used to inform regulators and food manufacturers about food, nutrition and consumer safety, then accurate data is of course key. The challenge is that the NCI method aims to accurately represent the average daily diet, but they can’t ask everyone what they eat every day. So how can they gather the most accurate data? Using their 24-hour recall methods, food and drinks that are regularly consumed can be gathered, like bread or coffee, and aren’t too difficult to predict and estimate for a national population, or a given age group of adults. Certain food groups aren’t eaten every day, leading to days with no recorded data. Taking our coffee example, some people do not drink coffee at all, while others consume it occasionally, and it’s crucial that this variance is considered. Once again, deep expertise and knowledge of the data and the mathematics behind the NCI approach are essential.

Where do Creme Global come in?

Creme Global has made this NCI method available on the Creme Food Safety platform, in order to make this complex method easy to use. How? We lean on our years of experience and deep expertise to ensure accuracy when interpreting the results. When combined with Creme Global pre-installed and validated data sets, usual intakes of caffeine (or other chemicals) can be estimated on the basis of survey data for all of the major markets internationally.

The Creme Food Safety platform makes it simple to quickly analyse the eating habits of any population from the US to China, any socio-economic sub-group(s), for any food type, additive, contaminant, or nutritional ingredient – making it highly flexible and user-friendly.

So what should you do? If you want to use the NCI method, contact Creme Global at solutions@cremeglobal.com

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