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Nutritional assessment by diet analysis is a two-stepped process consisting of evaluation of food consumption, and conversion of food into nutrient intake by using a food composition database, which lists the mean nutritional values for a given food portion. Most reports in the literature focus on minimizing errors in estimation of food consumption but the selection of a specific food composition table used in nutrient estimation is also a source of errors.
We have prepared a multi-Arab country food composition database for nutrient estimation. The nutrient database is primarily based on the USDA food composition database, modified appropriately with reference to local food composition tables, and supplemented with recipes of locally eaten mixed dishes. In Population Nutrition Research, our food composition experts are continually updating our database to incorporate many additional foods via recipe calculations and the use of manufacturers’ ingredient information. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, (USDA) National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference has information on over 7100 foods and up to 136 components of foods. By doing so we have ensured that the units of measurement, method of selection of foods for testing, and assays used for nutrient estimation are consistent and as current as possible, and yet have taken into account some local variations. Using this common metric for nutrient assessment will reduce differential errors in nutrient estimation and improve the validity of between-country comparisons.
We have also development of a state-of-the-art dietary assessment system, with software adaptable for specific project needs and capable of being used with different food composition databases, including the USDA food composition databank; and development of diet diaries for different age groups, incorporating new dimensions of information on socio-ecological determinants of diet quality and health.