BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVES: Many diet quality scores exist, but fully food-based scores based on contemporary evidence are scarce. Our aim was to develop a food-based diet score based on international literature and examine its discriminative capacity and socio-demographic determinants.
SUBJECTS/METHODS: Between 2006 and 2013, dietary intake of 129,369 participants of the Lifelines Cohort (42% male, 45 ± 13 years (range 18-93)) was assessed with a 110-item food frequency questionnaire. Based on the 2015 Dutch Dietary Guidelines and underlying literature, nine food groups with positive (vegetables, fruit, whole grain products, legumes&nuts, fish, oils&soft margarines, unsweetened dairy, coffee and tea) and three food groups with negative health effects (red&processed meat, butter&hard margarines and sugar-sweetened beverages) were identified. Per food group, the intake in grams per 1000 kcal was categorized into quintiles, awarded 0 to 4 points (negative groups scored inversely) and summed. Food groups with neutral, unknown or inconclusive evidence are described but not included.
RESULTS: The Lifelines Diet Score (LLDS) discriminated well between high and low consumers of included food groups. This is illustrated by e.g. a 2-fold higher vegetable intake in the highest, compared to the lowest LLDS quintile. Differences were 5.5-fold for fruit, 3.5-fold for fish, 3-fold for dairy and 8-fold for sugar-sweetened beverages. The LLDS was higher in females and positively associated with age and educational level.
CONCLUSIONS: The LLDS is based on the latest international evidence for diet-disease relations at the food group level and has high capacity to discriminate people with widely different intakes. Together with the population-based quintile approach, this makes the LLDS a flexible, widely applicable tool for diet quality assessment.