Diet counseling gets only modest gains

Diet counseling is a part of many employee wellness programs, but a recent review of 38 studies shows this counseling results in only modest improvements in risk factors such as high cholesterol and blood pressure.1

Adults who received advice on their diets increased consumption of fruits and vegetables by 1.25 servings, increased fiber intake, and decreased total dietary fats.

"Occupational health professionals know they have a challenge when it comes to changing dietary habits," says Eric Brunner, Ph.D., the study's author, and a researcher in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at the University College London Medical School.

Individuals at higher risk, such as those with high blood pressure or cholesterol, responded better than those with "average" levels of risk. Also, when more than three personal contacts were made, results were better. The review suggests that "healthy" adults — free of a disease label but not necessarily at low risk — are not strongly motivated to respond to dietary advice.

"The work context is therefore a key factor that can influence dietary habits," says Brunner. "Vending machines, ads, and so on, are equally if not more important than the counseling program."

Reference

1. Brunner EJ, Rees K, Ward K, et al. Dietary advice for reducing cardiovascular risk. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2007. DOI: 10.1002/14651858. CD002128.pub3.