Journal Articles

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American Journal of Clinical Nutrition


BACKGROUND: Regulating meal timing may have efficacy for improving metabolic health for preventing or managing chronic disease. However, the reliability of measuring meal timing with commonly used dietary assessment tools needs characterization prior to investigating meal timing and health outcomes in epidemiologic studies.

OBJECTIVES: to evaluate the reliability of estimating meal timing parameters, including overnight fasting duration, the midpoint of overnight fasting time, the number of daily eating episodes, the period with the largest percentage of daily caloric intake, and late last eating episode (> 09:00 pm) from repeated 24-h dietary recalls (24HRs).

METHODS: Intraclass correlation coefficients (ICC), Light's Kappa estimates, and 95% CIs were calculated from repeated 24HR administered in 3 epidemiologic studies: The United States-based Interactive Diet and Activity Tracking in AARP (IDATA) study (n = 996, 6 24HR collected over 12-mo), German EPIC-Potsdam Validation Study (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition Potsdam Germany cohort) (n = 134, 12 24HR collected over 12-mo) and EPIC-Potsdam BMBF-II Study (Federal Ministry of Education and Research, "Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung") (n = 725, 4 24HR collected over 36 mo).

RESULTS: Measurement reliability of overnight fasting duration based on a single 24HR was "poor" in all studies [ICC range: 0.27; 95% CI: 0.23, 0.32 - 0.46; 95% CI: 0.43, 0.50]. Reliability was "moderate" with 3 24HR (ICC range: 0.53; 95% CI: 0.47, 0.58 in IDATA, 0.62; 95% CI: 0.52, 0.69 in the EPIC-Potsdam Validation Study, and 0.72; 95% CI: 0.70-0.75 in the EPIC-Potsdam BMBF-II Study). Results were similar for the midpoint of overnight fasting time and the number of eating episodes. Reliability of measuring late eating was "fair" in IDATA (Light's Kappa: 0.30; 95% CI: 0.21, 0.39) and "slight" in the EPIC-Potsdam Validation study and the EPIC-Potsdam BMBF-II study (Light's Kappa: 0.19; 95% CI: 0.15, 0.25 and 0.09; 95% CI: 0.06, 0.12, respectively). Reliability estimates differed by sex, BMI, weekday, and season of 24HR administration in some studies.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results show that ≥ 3 24HR over a 1-3-y period are required for reliable estimates of meal timing variables.


Humans, Prospective Studies, Reproducibility of Results, Diet, Energy Intake, Meals

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