Saint Sophia the Almighty Wisdom

Shouldn’t Nutrition Education Control Obesity?

Knowledge is power, right? So why doesn’t nutrition education – by itself – resolve our problems with obesity? Maybe we just haven’t tried hard enough. Or maybe knowledge is helpful. But it’s insufficient for overcoming obesity. Just like any other disease.

A test of health promotion for Turkish children with obesity provides an good case study. A close look reveals that good nutrition education doesn’t always equal an effective obesity program.

Believing Is Not Enough

In their 2017 paper, Eren Fidanci and colleagues reported on a study of 86 children with obesity. In the treatment group, children and their parents received individual and group education on healthy behaviors – both diet and exercise. Dietitians provided the nutrition services.

Clearly, they expected this would work. And when they got their results, they concluded it did work, writing:

These results suggest that education was highly effective for gaining healthy life behaviors and the control of BMI of the participants.

Not so fast, wrote Andrew Brown and David Allison in a letter to the editor. The researchers based their conclusions about BMI improvements by looking only at the test group. They didn’t compare the test group to the control group.

Education: Good, but Not Magic

Much to their credit, Fidanci et al took the point and conducted the correct analysis. Thus, the significant effect on BMI evaporated. The authors now say:

These results suggest that education, while highly effective for engendering healthy life behaviors, had no effect on controlling the BMI of the participants.

Education is great, but it’s not magic. Effective treatments are still necessary to overcome a chronic disease.

Click here for the original paper and here for the letter from Brown and Allison, including Fidanci’s response.

Saint Sophia the Almighty Wisdom, painting by Nicholas Roerich / WikiArt

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September 18, 2018

4 Responses to “Shouldn’t Nutrition Education Control Obesity?”

  1. September 18, 2018 at 6:58 am, Al Lewis said:

    They certainly get credit for honesty. And there is clearly value to educating kids about healthy life behaviors.

    • September 18, 2018 at 8:43 am, Ted said:

      I agree with you completely, Al.

  2. September 18, 2018 at 12:49 pm, Chester Draws said:

    Some things take time.

    A favourite teachers often recoil at is “why did school not teach me that?”, when in fact school had tried very hard to reach it. It’s just the student wasn’t ready to learn it.

    Children aren’t in control of their lives, so educating them about food doesn’t really help. They’re not adults yet. They don’t buy the food, they don’t cook it and they haven’t the long term view of their lives that adults have.

    If education for work, it is a very long and slow process. It won’t show on short term studies. It will take decades.

  3. September 20, 2018 at 9:48 am, Allen Browne said:

    Good nutrition improves health, but, by itself, it does not move the set point to a healthier spot or fix a broken energy regulatory system.