Education about healthy eating and nutrition can play an important role in helping people make informed choices about the foods they eat, which can have a positive impact on their overall health. Studies have shown that interventions that provide education about nutrition and healthy eating can lead to improvements in diet quality, weight management, and other health outcomes. For example, research has shown that providing nutrition education to children and families can lead to improved dietary intake and weight management, while providing education to adults can lead to improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and other cardiovascular risk factors.
However, it is also important to consider that dietary education alone may not be sufficient for changing eating habits, other factors such as access to healthy food, lifestyle, physical activity, culture, and societal influences also affect the eating habits and other health outcomes.
The preliminary results of a University of Cincinnati clinical research study aimed at improving diet quality and lowering cardiovascular risk are promising. The Supermarket and Web-Based Intervention Targeting Nutrition (SuperWIN) study was a randomized, controlled trial that promotes a heart-healthy diet through nutrition counseling provided by a registered dietitian at one of each participant’s home grocery stores.
The findings of SuperWIN highlight the positive impact retail dietitians can have on people attempting to make healthy choices, as well as the unique role of the grocery store in simplifying those choices to impact health.Taylor Newman
The trial is the result of a partnership between the university, UC Health, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and Kroger Health, the health care division of the Kroger Co. The research was published in the journal Nature Medicine.
“The additional health benefits demonstrated by dietitian consultations in the SuperWIN study continue to reiterate the importance of access to nutrition consultations by licensed dietitians,” said Sarah Couch, Ph.D., in the Department of Rehabilitation, Exercise, and Nutrition Sciences at the UC College of Allied Health Sciences and co-primary investigator of SuperWIN.
The study results show that:
- Individualized educational tours conducted in-store by a supermarket-based dietitian continuously improve dietary quality.
- Education and training on online shopping, home delivery, and nutrition apps improves dietary quality even more.
- Using thoughtful designs and the retail store’s physical and technological infrastructure, clinical trials can be carried out with exceptional quality, even in community-based populations.
“The retail industry, including supermarkets and grocery stores, has long had enormous potential to expand the reach of traditional health care systems into communities, offering access, convenience, and a customer-centric approach,” said Dylan Steen, MD, director of Clinical Trials and Population Health Research in the Division of Cardiovascular Health and Disease at the University of California, College of Medicine, and a UC Health cardiologist.
“This industry may also serve as the ideal environment to deliver dietary education interventions for problems like the massive, unaddressed issues of poor dietary quality and rising obesity,” Steen adds. “SuperWIN is the first clinical trial to be completed in a gold-standard manner, thanks to a collaboration between a diverse academic group of investigators and a large supermarket chain.”
The SuperWIN study is the result of a partnership, years in the making, to study novel interventions to improve food purchase and dietary intake quality. Results of the study showed improved adherence to the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH, diet. The study participants included 247 UC Health primary care patients with at least one of three cardiovascular risk factors – obesity, hypertension and/or high cholesterol. All study visits were conducted within Kroger supermarkets.
Participants first saw a Kroger Health dietitian for medical nutrition therapy. Patients who qualified for the study were then randomly assigned to one of three study groups. The study’s findings revealed that, on average, participants in the group who met with a Kroger Health dietitian for an on-site individualized education and shopping practice session increased their adherence to a DASH diet more than the control group.
Cincinnati Children’s oversaw data management, statistical analysis, and study results interpretation, as well as the overall study’s design, interactive web-based reports for participants to review purchases and food intake, and modeling.
Dietary intake interviews were conducted with participants prior to the study, as well as three and six months later at the Cincinnati Children’s Schubert Research Clinic. The information gleaned from the interviews was used to estimate participants’ usual food and nutrition intake and, ultimately, to determine whether or not these measures changed by the end of the study.
“The findings of SuperWIN highlight the positive impact retail dietitians can have on people attempting to make healthy choices, as well as the unique role of the grocery store in simplifying those choices to impact health,” said Taylor Newman, PhD, director of nutrition at Kroger Health. “The University of Cincinnati and Kroger Health collaboration is laying the groundwork to change the way people approach grocery shopping with a focus on health.”