Analysis of meal patterns with the use of supervised data mining techniques—artificial neural networks and decision trees1–3

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Abstract

Background:

At present, the analysis of dietary patterns is based on the intake of individual foods. This article demonstrates how a coding system at the meal level might be analyzed by using data mining techniques.

Objective:

The objective was to evaluate the usability of supervised data mining methods to predict an aspect of dietary quality based on dietary intake with a food-based coding system and a novel mealbased coding system.

Design:

Food consumption databases from the North-South Ireland Food Consumption Survey 1997-1999 were used. This was a randomized cross-sectional study of 7-d recorded food and nutrient intakes of a representative sample of 1379 Irish adults. Meal definitions were recorded by the respondent. A healthy eating index (HEI) score was developed. Artificial neural networks (ANNs) and decision trees were used to predict quintiles of the HEI based on combinations of foods consumed at breakfast and main meals.

Results:

This study applied both data mining techniques to the food and meal-based coding systems. The ANN had a slightly higher accuracy than did the decision tree in relation to its ability to predict HEI quintiles 1 and 5 based on the food coding system (78.7% compared with 76.9% and 71.9% compared with 70.1%, respectively). However, the decision tree had higher accuracies than did the ANN on the basis of the meal coding system (67.5% compared with 54.6% and 75.1% compared with 72.4%, respectively).

Conclusions:

ANNs and decision trees were successfully used to predict an aspect of dietary quality. However, further exploration of the use of ANNs and decision trees in dietary pattern analysis is warranted.

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