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Peer support interventions for dietary change may offer cost-effective alternatives to interventions led by health professionals. This process evaluation of a trial to encourage the adoption and maintenance of a Mediterranean diet in a Northern European population at high CVD risk (TEAM-MED) aimed to investigate the feasibility of implementing a group-based peer support intervention for dietary change, positive elements of the intervention and aspects that could be improved. Data on training and support for the peer supporters; intervention fidelity and acceptability; acceptability of data collection processes for the trial and reasons for withdrawal from the trial were considered. Data were collected from observations, questionnaires and interviews, with both peer supporters and trial participants. Peer supporters were recruited and trained to result in successful implementation of the intervention; all intended sessions were run, with the majority of elements included. Peer supporters were complimentary of the training, and positive comments from participants centred around the peer supporters, the intervention materials and the supportive nature of the group sessions. Attendance at the group sessions, however, waned over the intervention, with suggested effects on intervention engagement, enthusiasm and group cohesion. Reduced attendance was reportedly a result of meeting (in)frequency and organisational concerns, but increased social activities and group-based activities may also increase engagement, group cohesion and attendance. The peer support intervention was successfully implemented and tested, but improvements can be suggested and may enhance the successful nature of these types of interventions. Some consideration of personal preferences may also improve outcomes.
Dietary patterns (DP) rich in plant foods are associated with improved health and reduced non-communicable disease risk. In October 2021, the Nutrition Society hosted a member-led conference, held online over 2 half days, exploring the latest research findings examining plant-rich DP and health. The aim of the present paper is to summarise the content of the conference and synopses of the individual speaker presentations are included. Topics included epidemiological analysis of plant-rich DP and health outcomes, the effects of dietary interventions which have increased fruit and vegetable (FV) intake on a range of health outcomes, how adherence to plant-rich DP is assessed, the use of biomarkers to assess FV intake and a consideration of how modifying behaviour towards increased FV intake could impact environmental outcomes, planetary health and food systems. In conclusion, although there are still considerable uncertainties which require further research, which were considered as part of the conference and are summarised in this review, adopting a plant-rich DP at a population level could have a considerable impact on diet and health outcomes, as well as planetary health.
This study aimed to evaluate the feasibility of a peer support intervention to encourage adoption and maintenance of a Mediterranean diet (MD) in established community groups where existing social support may assist the behaviour change process. Four established community groups with members at increased Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) risk and homogenous in gender were recruited and randomised to receive either a 12-month Peer Support (PS) intervention (PSG) (n 2) or a Minimal Support intervention (educational materials only) (MSG) (n 2). The feasibility of the intervention was assessed using recruitment and retention rates, assessing the variability of outcome measures (primary outcome: adoption of an MD at 6 months (using a Mediterranean Diet Score (MDS)) and process evaluation measures including qualitative interviews. Recruitment rates for community groups (n 4/8), participants (n 31/51) and peer supporters (n 6/14) were 50 %, 61 % and 43 %, respectively. The recruitment strategy faced several challenges with recruitment and retention of participants, leading to a smaller sample than intended. At 12 months, a 65 % and 76·5 % retention rate for PSG and MSG participants was observed, respectively. A > 2-point increase in MDS was observed in both the PSG and the MSG at 6 months, maintained at 12 months. An increase in MD adherence was evident in both groups during follow-up; however, the challenges faced in recruitment and retention suggest a definitive study of the peer support intervention using current methods is not feasible and refinement based on the current feasibility study should be incorporated. Lessons learned during the implementation of this intervention will help inform future interventions in this area.
Adhering to a Mediterranean diet (MD) is associated with reduced CVD risk. This study aimed to explore methods of increasing MD adoption in a non-Mediterranean population at high risk of CVD, including assessing the feasibility of a developed peer support intervention. The Trial to Encourage Adoption and Maintenance of a MEditerranean Diet was a 12-month pilot parallel group RCT involving individuals aged ≥ 40 year, with low MD adherence, who were overweight, and had an estimated CVD risk ≥ 20 % over ten years. It explored three interventions, a peer support group, a dietician-led support group and a minimal support group to encourage dietary behaviour change and monitored variability in Mediterranean Diet Score (MDS) over time and between the intervention groups, alongside measurement of markers of nutritional status and cardiovascular risk. 118 individuals were assessed for eligibility, and 75 (64 %) were eligible. After 12 months, there was a retention rate of 69 % (peer support group 59 %; DSG 88 %; MSG 63 %). For all participants, increases in MDS were observed over 12 months (P < 0·001), both in original MDS data and when imputed data were used. Improvements in BMI, HbA1c levels, systolic and diastolic blood pressure in the population as a whole. This pilot study has demonstrated that a non-Mediterranean adult population at high CVD risk can make dietary behaviour change over a 12-month period towards an MD. The study also highlights the feasibility of a peer support intervention to encourage MD behaviour change amongst this population group and will inform a definitive trial.
There is an urgent need to find effective methods of supporting individuals to make dietary behaviour changes. Peer-supported interventions (PSI) have been suggested as a cost-effective strategy to support chronic disease self-management. However, the effect of PSI on dietary behaviour is unclear. The present systematic review aimed to assess the effectiveness of PSI for encouraging dietary behaviour change in adults and to consider intervention characteristics linked with effectiveness.
Electronic databases were searched until June 2018 for randomised controlled trials assessing the effectiveness of PSI compared with an alternative intervention and/or control on a dietary related outcome in adults. Following title and abstract screening, two reviewers independently screened full texts and data were extracted by one reviewer and independently checked by another. Results were synthesised narratively.
Randomised controlled trials.
The fifty-four included studies varied in participants, intervention details and results. More PSI reported a positive or mixed effect on diet than no effect. Most interventions used a group model and were lay-led by peer supporters. Several studies did not report intervention intensity, fidelity and peer training and support in detail. Studies reporting positive effects employed more behaviour change techniques (BCT) than studies reporting no effect; however, heterogeneity between studies was considerable.
As evidence was mixed, further interventions need to assess the effect of PSI on dietary behaviour, describe intervention content (theoretical basis, BCT, intensity and peer training/support) and include a detailed process evaluation.
Diet has been investigated in relation to its ability to promote cognitive function. However, evidence is currently limited and has rarely been systematically reviewed, particularly in a mild cognitive impairment (MCI) population. This review examined the effect of diet on cognitive outcomes in MCI patients. A total of five databases were searched to find randomised controlled trial (RCT) studies, with diet as the main focus, in MCI participants. The primary outcome was incident dementia and/or Alzheimer's disease (AD) and secondary outcomes included cognitive function across different domains using validated neuropsychological tests. Sixteen studies met the inclusion criteria. There was a high degree of heterogeneity relating to the nature of the dietary intervention and cognitive outcomes measured, thus making study comparisons difficult. Supplementation with vitamin E (one study, n 516), ginkgo biloba (one study, n 482) or Fortasyn Connect (one study, n 311) had no significant effect on progression from MCI to dementia and/or AD. For cognitive function, the findings showed some improvements in performance, particularly in memory, with the most consistent results shown by B vitamins, including folic acid (one study, n 266), folic acid alone (one study, n 180), DHA and EPA (two studies, n 36 and n 86), DHA (one study, n 240) and flavonol supplementation (one study, n 90). The findings indicate that dietary factors may have a potential benefit for cognitive function in MCI patients. Further well-designed trials are needed, with standardised and robust measures of cognition to investigate the influence of diet on cognitive status.
To review the epidemiological evidence for vegetarian diets, low-meat dietary patterns and their association with health status in adults.
Published literature review focusing primarily on prospective studies and meta-analyses examining the association between vegetarian diets and health outcomes.
Both vegetarian diets and prudent diets allowing small amounts of red meat are associated with reduced risk of diseases, particularly CHD and type 2 diabetes. There is limited evidence of an association between vegetarian diets and cancer prevention. Evidence linking red meat intake, particularly processed meat, and increased risk of CHD, cancer and type 2 diabetes is convincing and provides indirect support for consumption of a plant-based diet.
The health benefits of vegetarian diets are not unique. Prudent plant-based dietary patterns which also allow small intakes of red meat, fish and dairy products have demonstrated significant improvements in health status as well. At this time an optimal dietary intake for health status is unknown. Plant-based diets contain a host of food and nutrients known to have independent health benefits. While vegetarian diets have not shown any adverse effects on health, restrictive and monotonous vegetarian diets may result in nutrient deficiencies with deleterious effects on health. For this reason, appropriate advice is important to ensure a vegetarian diet is nutritionally adequate especially for vulnerable groups.
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