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Support System Leads to Better Diet, Nutrition
Date:9/20/2007

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The group that received phone counseling did better on their diet than the comparison group at the one-year and four-year mark, the researchers found. At one year, "there was a 38 percent increase in vegetable intake, a 20 percent increase in fruit, 38 percent more fiber" in the group receiving phone counseling, Rock said.

By year four of the study, the counseling group was consuming 65 percent more vegetables, 25 percent more fruit, and 30 percent more fiber. And they were getting 27 percent of their energy from fat, while the comparison group's fat intake was 31 percent.

The researchers verified the findings by taking blood samples.

The phone counseling started out frequently, then declined as people adopted the healthier habits. "The first few weeks, they talked to someone on the phone three or four times," Rock said. "Then for three or four months, they talked once a week. Then it was more like follow-up counseling. They got about 18 calls the first year, six the second year, four in the third year and three in the fourth year."

Trained counselors helped the participants with the dietary changes. "It was like coaching," Rock said. For instance, a woman might say she wanted to improve her breakfasts. A counselor might suggest eating an orange. But if the woman said, no, that wouldn't work because she ate breakfast in the car, the counselor might suggest a smoothie that includes fruits that could be sipped in a travel coffee mug.

Rock said the program has three crucial features: Demanding accountability -- the participants knew they would get another phone call; individualizing it to a person's lifestyle; and setting goals.

Another expert said the study demonstrates that phone counseling works to help people improve their diet.

"The use of phone counseling is growing, and this study shows that it can be very effective in achieving change while controlling costs," said Co
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