Background: Nutritional epidemiology cohort studies primarily use food frequency questionnaires (FFQs). In part because FFQs are more reliable for nutrient densities than for absolute nutrient consumption, reports from association studies typically present only nutrient density measures in relation to disease risk.
Methods: We used objective biomarkers to correct FFQ assessments for measurement error, and examined absolute energy and protein consumption in relation to cardiovascular disease incidence. FFQs and subsequent physician-adjudicated cardiovascular disease incidence were assessed for 80,370 postmenopausal women in the age range 50–79 years at enrollment in the comparison group of the Dietary Modification Trial or the prospective Observational Study in the Women's Health Initiative. Urinary recovery biomarkers of energy and protein were obtained from a subsample of 544 women, with concurrent FFQ information.
Results: After biomarker correction, energy consumption was positively associated with coronary heart disease incidence (hazard ratio = 1.18; 95% confidence interval = 1.04–1.33, for 20% consumption increment) and protein density was inversely associated (0.85 [0.75–0.97]). The positive energy association appeared to be mediated by body fat accumulation. Ischemic stroke incidence was inversely associated with energy and protein consumption, but not with protein density.
Conclusions: A positive association between energy and coronary heart disease risk can be attributed to body mass accumulation. Ischemic stroke risk is inversely associated with energy and protein consumption, possibly due to correlations between consumption and physical activity.