As a cohort study, the article “Development and evaluation of a short 24-h food list as part of a blended dietary assessment strategy in large-scale cohort studies” provides information about how German residents were used as samples for developing a longitudinal research on their food intakes in the last 24 hours. Freese, Feller, Harttig, Kleiser, Linseisen, Fischer, Keitzman, Six-Merker, Michels, Nimptsch, Steinbrecher, Pischol, Heuer, Hoffmal, Jacobs, Boeing and Nöthlings aimed to investigate the validity of dietary assessment. The authors of this study followed two objectives: to identify the foods consumed by German people during the previous 24 h and to assess the performance of a new questionnaire (developed for this research) in a feasibility study (Freese et al., 2014).
The fact that the study aims to assess the individual intakes of its participants by indicating almost all the available food items from Germany implies a non-discriminatory focus on the groups of dietary products. This non-discriminatory focus can be perceived as an interest for finding out what people consume, without pointing to specific aliments, which would be considered a biased approach on alimentation. However, this holistic approach on alimentation, investigating almost all food items available in Germany is very broad, leading to mixed and inconclusive results regarding the alimentary habits of the population of this country. This approach makes the objective of this research simply informative, as the research does not discuss whether the food selection of the participants has positive or negative effects upon their health.
Another existent longitudinal study that researched the nutritional choices focused on identifying the connection between the consumed aliments and the living arrangements of the research participants (Ansari, Stock & Mikojajczyk, 2012). The health status connected to the level of consumption of fruit and vegetable was the purpose of another similar research (Mensick, Truthman, Rabenberg, et al., 2012). Compared to these two studies, the currently analyzed research brings no relevant information about the results of the study and the population's health status. In fact, the currently investigated research is more focused on presenting how the research was conducted rather than analyzing the results of the study. As such, although one of the objectives of this study is to identify the foods consumed in the last 24 hours by the study participants, it does not present an actual list of aliments consumed by the respondents. The lack of an actual list of aliments consumed by the participants is the biggest weakness of the study. Readers would expect to see what German people usually consume during 24 hours, or what types of aliments are regularly consumed by people from different age categories, belonging to different genders, social background or regions.
The other objective of the study, however, evaluating the performance of the new questionnaire in a feasibility study, is more related to the research results. The authors of this study discuss the implications of the research results for the assessment of the proposed objective, yet they fail to tell a story (Cargill & O’Connor, 2009), as they do not explain why the results are important for the research outcomes. Being a study about alimentation, its authors do not explain how the nutrient mix consumed by the patients affect their health. Similarly, they do not present the energetic level, the vitamin, fat, cholesterol or sucrose content of the aliments consumed, hence, no interpretation of the data in relation with the health assessment is described.
For developing this research, the authors used a combination of two methods specific to longitudinal studies in general and to the clinical research in particular: the food frequency questionnaires (FFQ) and the 24-h dietary recall (24HDR) (Freese et al., 2014). The respondents of this study were German residents, men and women, coming from different economic and social backgrounds, with variations regarding their access to internet and their technology knowledge. The technological and the internet access are important aspects for this study, because the research included a web investigation of the participants’ food consumption during the previous 24 hours.
Analyzing the methodology section, the research comprehensively and consistently presents the utilized research methods, explaining accurately how the researchers applied each utilized method (respectively the FFQ and the 24HRD). It thoroughly describes the participants, presenting relevant and clear demographic information (region of origin, gender, group age) and it details on how the authors conducted the research, presenting the significant stages of the research development. The methodological section also explains the statistical analysis methods (linear regression analysis and descriptive statistics). All in one, the methodological section constitutes the strength of the research. The authors also present an evaluation of the methodology, performed by the participants, for assessing the user-friendliness of the questionnaire used, from their point of view. This approach also constitutes a strong point of the study.
Although the methodology is reliable, the entire paper is only partially reliable. The fact that within the research paper there is not specified a connection between the methodology itself and the dietary choices of the participants makes the study unreliable and it leaves the impression that it is unfinished. This fact compromises the validity of the data presented throughout the study. However, the methodology is linked to the research objectives, as it addresses how the research was conducted for answering the specific research objectives. Haisler (2011) notes that the validity of research consists in aligning the learning objectives with the methodological criteria. The current analyzed research paper links the learning objectives with the methodological designs, but despite this, the study still seems incomplete. The research paper lacks the interpretation of the data in relation to the health assessment. As such, the authors of this study limit the research to solely describing the findings, without discussing their significance for the German population’s health status based on the respondents’ answers regarding their alimentation habits.
The structure and content of research papers recommend that the discussion sections should describe the implications of the study, being supported with the data gathered within the research (Bhandari & Joensson, 2011). Therefore, the study requires improvements in terms of delineating the impact of this research for the population health. Because the generated data includes all the aliments that the respondents consumed 24 hours previous to completing the web – based questionnaire, the authors of this study could elaborate their research for identifying if the respondents have healthy or unhealthy eating habits. There could even be performed differentiations depending on the group age, gender or region for identifying the diet particularities of the identified groups, which could bring significant strength for the research paper.
The results provide limited information about the aliments consumed by the study participants. As such, they only mention that 75% of the food consumed by the respondents was rich in vitamin A, and 75% was based on protein (Freese et al., 2014). The authors of this study had the opportunity to discuss the implications of these results for the German population’s health and to make recommendations on how to improve the health based on consuming specific nutrients. However, these findings are not further developed in the “Discussion” section, which means that the authors did not maximize the quality of this section. Compared with the currently examined study, the research conducted by Randles, Gust and Liguori (2014) visibly connects the results of the research with the discussion, assessing the impact of specific dietary selection on the targeted population’s health outcomes.
Overall, the analyzed research paper is purely a theoretic writing that investigates the suitability of a research tool for various health assessment studies based on the population alimentation in various regions throughout Germany. Although the study gathered significant data for analyzing if the food selections that the investigated population consumed in the previous 24 hours was healthy or not, it nevertheless lacks a connection with the actual population health assessment. The research scores high for the methodological section, which represents the strength of the study, and low at the discussion section, which is visibly weak because it fails to present the implications of the results for the population’s health assessment.
Ansari, W.E, Stock, C. & Mikojajczyk, R.T. (2012) Relationships between food consumption and living arrangements among university students in four European countries – A cross-sectional study. Nutritional Journal., 11:28, pp. 1-7.
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Freese, J, Feller, S, Harttig, U, Kleiser, C, Linseisen, J, Fischer, B, Keitzman, MF, Six-Merker, J, Michels, KB, Nimptsch, K, Steinbrecher, A, Pischon, T, Heuer, T, Hoffmal, I, Jacobs, G, Boeing H and Nöthlings, U. (2014) development and evaluation of a short 24-h food list as part of a blended dietary assessment strategy in large-scale cohort studies. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. pp. 1-6.
Mensink, G.B.M., Ttruthman, J., Rabenberg, M., Heidemann, C., Haftenberg, M., Schienkiewitz A. & Richter. A. (2012) Fruit and vegetable intake in germany. results of the germany health interview and examination survey for adults (DEGS1). Bundescgesunndheitsbl, Vol. 56, pp. 779-785.
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Randles, A., Gist A. & Liguori, G. (n.d.) Assessing Healthful Food Choices and Nutritional Information on Kid’s Restaurant Menus. North Dakota: North Dakota State University.