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Explaining the effects of a 1-year intervention promoting a low fat diet in adolescent girls : a mediation analysis

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journal contribution
posted on 2007-01-01, 00:00 authored by L Haerens, Ester Cerin, B Deforche, L Maes, I De Bourdeaudhuij
Background : Although it is important to investigate how interventions work, no formal mediation analyses have been conducted to explain behavioral outcomes in school-based fat intake interventions in adolescents. The aim of the present study was to examine mediation effects of changes in psychosocial determinants of dietary fat intake (attitude, social support, self-efficacy, perceived benefits and barriers) on changes in fat intake in adolescent girls.

Methods : Data from a 1-year prospective intervention study were used. A random sample of 804 adolescent girls was included in the study. Girls in the intervention group (n = 415) were exposed to a multi-component school-based intervention program, combining environmental changes with a computer tailored fat intake intervention and parental support. Fat intake and psychosocial determinants of fat intake were measured with validated self-administered questionnaires. To assess mediating effects, a product-of-coefficient test, appropriate for cluster randomized controlled trials, was used.

Results : None of the examined psychosocial factors showed a reliable mediating effect on changes in fat intake. The single-mediator model revealed a statistically significant suppression effect of perceived barriers on changes in fat intake (p = 0.011). In the multiple-mediator model, this effect was no longer significant, which was most likely due to changes in perceived barriers being moderately related to changes in self-efficacy (-0.30) and attitude (-0.25). The overall mediated-suppressed effect of the examined psychosocial factors was virtually zero (total mediated effect = 0.001; SE = 7.22; p = 0.992).

Conclusion : Given the lack of intervention effects on attitudes, social support, self-efficacy and perceived benefits and barriers, it is suggested that future interventions should focus on the identification of effective strategies for changing these theoretical mediators in the desired direction. Alternatively, it could be argued that these constructs need not be targeted in interventions aimed at adolescents, as they may not be responsible for the intervention effects on fat intake. To draw any conclusions regarding mediators of fat-intake change in adolescent' girls and regarding optimal future intervention strategies, more systematic research on the mediating properties of psychosocial variables is needed.



International journal of behavioral nutrition and physical activity






1 - 8


BioMed Central


London, England





Publication classification

C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2007, BioMed Central

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