Counselling can increase fruit and vegetable intake

April 17, 2003

Behavioural counselling can increase consumption of fruit and vegetables among deprived adults, finds a study in this week's BMJ.

Researchers identified 271 patients, aged 18-70 years, from a health centre in a deprived, ethnically mixed inner city area.

Patients were randomly assigned to two groups. One group received behavioural counselling (personalised advice from a practice nurse and setting of short and long term goals). The other received nutrition counselling (education about the importance of increasing consumption of fruit and vegetables).

Patients recorded the number of portions of fruit and vegetables eaten per day. Vitamin and potassium levels, were also assessed.

After 12 months, consumption of fruit and vegetables increased by 1.5 portions per day in the behavioural group and 0.9 portions per day in the nutrition group. The proportion of patients eating five or more portions a day increased by 42% and 27% in the two groups.

There were no changes in vitamin C or potassium concentrations. Levels of vitamin E and beta-carotene increased in both groups, but the rise in beta-carotene was greater in the behavioural group.

These findings show that brief individual counselling is feasible in primary care and can elicit sustained increases in consumption of fruit and vegetables in low income adults in the general population, conclude the authors.
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BMJ

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