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Dietary Counseling Effective for High-Risk Patients

Threat of illness may motivate some to make dietary changes

FRIDAY, Jan. 3, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- If you're sick enough, you'll change your bad habits.

That theory seems to be borne out in a new study showing that people who are at risk for heart disease and other chronic illnesses respond well to extended dietary counseling.

The conclusion comes from a U.S. Preventive Services Task Force analysis of 21 different diet counseling studies conducted over 35 years. The task force was under the aegis of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

In the studies, adult patients were told about dietary improvements like eating less saturated fat, eating more fruits or vegetables or consuming more fiber daily.

The success of the counseling was based on mostly self-reported drops in saturated fat intake or increases in fruit and vegetable or fiber intake.

Researchers also looked at the specifics of the counseling, such as duration of sessions, techniques used and whether interactive materials were used.

They found that patients who had received multiple types of assistance -- personal evaluation, group counseling -- showed bigger improvements in their diet than those who had received less counseling. Those given face-to-face advice combined with interactive materials also showed larger dietary changes.

Counseling was offered either by primary care clinicians or through referral to other specialists, such as nutritionists or dietitians.

The task force suggested that patients at risk for chronic diseases such as high blood pressure or cholesterol problems may show a better response to counseling because they have greater motivation to change their diet.

The results are published in the January issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

More information

Visit the American Dietetic Association for more information on proper nutrition.

SOURCE: Center for the Advancement of Health, news release, Jan. 2, 2003
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