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Assessing the effectiveness of nutrition interventions implemented among US college students to promote healthy behaviors: A systematic review

Andrea M Brace, Fernanda Cd De Andrade, Bobbi Finkelstein
Nutrition and Health 2018, 24 (3): 171-181

BACKGROUND: Nutrition interventions are used to increase knowledge, change attitudes and beliefs about healthy eating, to increase skills, and promote healthy eating.

AIMS: To review the effectiveness of published nutrition interventions implemented among college students to promote healthy behaviors.

METHODS: The authors explored multiple electronic databases, such as ERIC, Science Direct, and EBSCOhost. Search criteria included nutritional interventions implemented among students attending US colleges, written in English, and published in peer-reviewed journals between 2000 and 2015. The authors conducted a systematic search of 1413 articles, and an in-depth review of 30 articles. The authors evaluated the following: (a) participants; (b) research design; (c) assessment instruments; (d) outcome measures; (e) results; and (f) methodological issues.

RESULTS: Short-term interventions showed promise in promoting positive dietary changes, which can serve as a protective factor for developing overweight and obesity. Methodological issues related to lack of comparison groups and minimal long-term follow-up do not allow researchers to determine if the interventions were the cause of the change, or if these changes are sustained over time. Studies that have a comparison group, use visual displays, or have longer durations, may maximize outcomes, improving long-term effects.

CONCLUSIONS: Nutrition interventions can effectively change dietary habits among college students. This can lead to healthy weight management and reduce the risk for overweight and obesity. Future research should consider the highlighted methodological issues to improve the quality of nutrition interventions.


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