January 11, 2008 / 7:37 PM / 12 years ago

Family dietary coach fuels healthy eating: study

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Having a nutrition coach actively coach families on how to make healthy changes in their diet appears to help parents and their children improve their nutritional intake, researchers found.

“Family coaching was well accepted,” Damien Paineau told Reuters Health, “suggesting that dietary changes may be sustained in the long term and may lead to improved health.”

However, while dietary coaching led to decreased weight gain among parents, it did not improve overall indicators of obesity among children, leading Paineau and colleagues to suggest that primary prevention of childhood obesity should not be limited to dietary intervention.

Paineau, manager of scientific studies and coaching for Nutri-Health, in Rueil-Maimaison, France, and colleagues assessed how two dietary coaching interventions, compared with a control group receiving no coaching, impacted the nutritional intake of 1,013 elementary school children and 1,013 of their parents.

Over an 8-month school year, the two coached groups were advised how to reduce dietary fats to less than 35 percent and increase complex carbohydrates to more than 50 percent of total energy intake. One group was additionally coached to reduce sugar intake.

The coached participants had access to a website with self-administered questionnaires on diet, physical activity, meal preparation, and quality of life. The intervention groups also received monthly, 30-minute telephone calls from a trained dietician who discussed family eating habits and provided individualized dietary advice, but offered no exercise recommendations.

According to a report in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, at the end of the intervention period, children and parents in the coached groups reached nutritional targets for fat intake; the children in the coached groups and about 46 percent of their parents met the targets for carbohydrate intake; and sugar intake decreased in the group coached to reduce dietary sugar consumption.

Dietary coaching that accounts for family characteristics such as social, educational, and economic status, as well as food preferences, allows for rapid improvement of dietary intakes, the investigators note. Such coaching may induce sustainable nutritional changes, they conclude.

SOURCE: Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, January 2008

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