Read This Blog to Improve Your Diet
Creating a weekly habit to read this blog and improve your nutrition knowledge can lead to real-life diet improvements.
Since the launch of the Training121 Blog in September 2022, we have written 33 articles on a broad scope of nutrition and health topics. These have ranged from carbohydrates and performance, to eating healthy on a budget, to nutrition for the female athlete, to turning good intentions into action (and a lot in between!). If you’re a regular reader, you’re levelling up your health and nutrition knowledge. But, as much as I would like to take credit for improving your diet, just the fact that you know more doesn’t necessarily mean you’re actually eating better. Enter: a study from 2017 that looked at whether reading a weekly blog article could improve people’s diets. Let’s see what the researchers found!
Article: Eating Healthy on a Budget
Researchers recruited 80 adult women to be randomly put into two experimental groups (1):
Group 1: Individuals were exposed to a weekly blog written by a registered dietitian on the benefits of fruits and vegetables (and were instructed to read it each week)
Group 2: Individuals were not exposed to the blog and underwent no intervention (passive control group)
The format and structure of the blog was developed according to a previous study, where the same researchers asked a number of women what they would like to see in a blog (2). The results of that study showed that women tended to prefer blogs that mention the name of the blogger and their qualifications, that include nice pictures of food, that allow for the application of advice given, and that include scientific references at the end of the post.
After 6 months (26 weekly blogs), there was a significant increase in fruits and vegetable intake in the intervention group. Specifically, the women reading the blogs improved their fruit and vegetable intake by about two servings per day (from 2.44 to 4.43 servings per day) after 6 months (Figure 1). Compared to the control group, the intervention group ate one extra serving per day of fruits and vegetables.
Figure 1. The bar graph shows that only the individuals who read the blog each week (grey bars) improved their fruit and vegetable intake from before to after the 6-month intervention (1). Note: 2 people dropped out of the study, leaving 38 in the intervention group at the end of the study.
How Meaningful Are The Results?
Considering that just a one-portion-per-day increase in fruit and vegetable intake is associated with about a 6–7% reduced risk of heart disease (3), these results are definitely clinically relevant. The researchers reported a moderate effect size from the intervention, which is quite a strong effect size for such a simple intervention.
The results of this study are welcome news! Whether this would translate to other dietary improvements or to men has not been studied, but seems plausible. However, these improvements are only sustained if you continually practise what you learned. Indeed, the researchers assessed the study participant’s diets 6 months after the intervention and found that fruit and vegetable intake had dropped by a serving per day for the intervention group (4). This highlights the importance of showing up each day for your health; just like you would on the pitch or in the gym.
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We would love to hear if you have found that reading our blogs has helped you to improve your diet. Reach out and tell us via DM on Instagram or via the email listed above.
Until next week!
Patrick Elliott, BSc, MPH
Health and Nutrition Science Communication Officer at Training121
Founder of Just Health — Instagram: @just.health.info
Health Disclaimer: this article is for informational and educational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional advice. For health advice, speak to a physician or other qualified health-care professional, and for nutrition advice, speak to a qualified nutrition professional (e.g., registered dietitian). The use of information on this site is solely at your own risk.
(1) Caplette ME, Provencher V, Bissonnette-Maheux V, et al. Increasing Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Through a Healthy Eating Blog: A Feasibility Study. JMIR Res Protoc. 2017;6(4):e59. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5413798/
(2) Bissonnette-Maheux V, Provencher V, Lapointe A, et al. Exploring women's beliefs and perceptions about healthy eating blogs: a qualitative study. J Med Internet Res. 2015;17(4):e87. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4407018/
(3) Micha R, Peñalvo JL, Cudhea F, Imamura F, Rehm CD, Mozaffarian D. Association Between Dietary Factors and Mortality From Heart Disease, Stroke, and Type 2 Diabetes in the United States. JAMA. 2017;317(9):912-24. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5852674/pdf/nihms946949.pdf
(4) Dumas AA, Lemieux S, Lapointe A, Provencher V, Robitaille J, Desroches S. Long-term effects of a healthy eating blog in mothers and children. Matern Child Nutr. 2020;16(3):e12981. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7296799/
Passive Control Group: The control group of an experimental study is the group that is used to compare the effectiveness of an intervention against. In a drug trial, the intervention group would get the active drug and the control group would get a placebo pill. The effect of the drug in the intervention group would then be compared to the effect (if any) of the placebo pill, to establish whether the drug is effective or not. Now that you know what a control group is, we can distinguish between ‘active’ and ‘passive’ control groups. ‘Active’ control groups are given another type of treatment, whereas ‘passive’ control groups are not. To give an example in diet research, if we wanted to understand whether a low-fat diet is effective for weight loss, we could compare it to a passive control group who received no diet advice. But if we were interested in seeing whether a low-fat group is better than, say, a low-carbohydrate diet for weight loss, we would compare it to an active control group that was given advice to follow a low-carbohydrate diet.
Statistical significance: This is a term to describe the likelihood of whether a finding in a study is a “real” finding, or if it is the result of chance. Statistical significance is denoted by a p-value, which is usually set at a significance (alpha) level of 0.05. This means that if a result is significant at this level (p ≤ 0.05), we can say that the probability of getting a value as or more extreme than the observed value (under the assumption that the null hypothesis is true) is less than 5%.
Effect size: This measures the strength of the relation between two variables. Formal measures include Cohen’s d, Hedge’s g, and Pearson’s r, to name a few.