The accuracy of portion size estimation using food images and textual descriptions of portion sizes : an evaluation study

Lucassen, Desiree A.; Willemsen, Romy F.; Geelen, Anouk; Brouwer-Brolsma, Elske M.; Feskens, Edith J.M.


Background: Inaccurate self-report of portion sizes is a major cause of measurement error in dietary assessment. To reduce this error, different portion size estimation aids (PSEAs) have been developed, including food images (image based, IB-PSE) and textual descriptions of portion sizes (text-based, TB-PSE). We assessed the accuracy of portion size estimation by IB-PSE and TB-PSE. Methods: True intake of one lunch was ascertained in forty participants. Self-reported portion sizes were assessed after 2 and 24 hours by means of TB-PSE and IB-PSE, in random order. Wilcoxon's tests were used to compare mean true intakes to reported intakes. Moreover, proportions of reported portion sizes within 10% and 25% of true intake were assessed. An adapted Bland-Altman approach was used to assess agreement between true and reported portion sizes. Analyses were conducted for all foods and drinks combined and for predetermined food types. Results: No significant differences were observed between reported portion sizes at 2 and 24 hours after lunch. Combining median relative errors of all foods items resulted in an overall 0% error rate for TB-PSE and 6% error rate for IB-PSE. Comparing reported portion sizes within 10% (31% vs. 13%) and 25% (50% vs. 35%) of the true intake showed a better performance for TB-PSE compared to IP-PSE, respectively. Bland-Altman plots indicated a higher agreement between reported and true intake for TB-PSE compared to IB-PSE. Conclusions: Although the use of TB-PSE still results in measurement error, our results suggest a more accurate dietary intake assessment with TB-PSE than IB-PSE.