BACKGROUND: Although there is interest in popular diets such as vegan and vegetarian, Paleo, and other "whole food" diets, existing cohort studies lack data for these subgroups. The use of electronic data capture and Web-based surveys in nutrition research may be valuable for future studies by allowing targeting of specific dietary subgroups.
OBJECTIVE: The aim was to perform a Feasibility Survey (FS) to assess the practicality of Web-based research methods to gather data and to maximize response rates among followers of popular diets.
METHODS: The FS was an open, voluntary, 15-min survey conducted over 8 wk in the summer of 2015. Recruitment targeted self-identified followers of popular diets from a convenience sample, offering no incentives, via social media and e-newsletters shared by recruitment partners. Feasibility was assessed by number of responses, survey completion rate, distribution of diets, geographic location, and willingness to participate in future research.
RESULTS: A total of 14,003 surveys were initiated; 13,787 individuals consented, and 9726 completed the survey (71% of consented). The numbers of unique visitors to the questionnaire site, view rate, and participation rate were not captured. Among respondents with complete demographic data, 83% were female and 93% were white. Diet designations were collapsed into the following groups: whole-food, plant-based (25%); vegan and raw vegan (19%); Paleo (14%); try to eat healthy (11%); vegetarian and pescatarian (9%); whole food (8%); Weston A Price (5%); and low-carbohydrate (low-carb) (4%). Forced-response, multiple-choice questions produced the highest response rates (0-2% selected "prefer not to answer"). The percentage who were willing to complete future online questionnaires was 86%, diet recall was 93%, and food diary was 75%; the percentages willing to provide a finger-stick blood sample, venipuncture blood sample, urine sample, and stool sample were 60%, 44%, 58%, and 42%, respectively.
CONCLUSIONS: This survey suggests that recruiting followers of popular diets is feasible with the use of Web-based methods. The unbalanced sample with respect to sex and race/ethnicity could be corrected with specific recruitment strategies using targeted online marketing techniques.