Public Health Nutrition

Research Paper

A commentary on current practice in mediating variable analyses in behavioural nutrition and physical activity

Ester Cerina1 c1 and David P MacKinnona2

a1 Children’s Nutrition Research Center, Baylor College of Medicine, 1100 Bates Street, Houston, TX 77030, USA

a2 Department of Psychology, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA


Objective To critique current practice in, and provide recommendations for, mediating variable analyses (MVA) of nutrition and physical activity behaviour change.

Strategy Theory-based behavioural nutrition and physical activity interventions aim at changing mediating variables that are hypothesized to be responsible for changes in the outcome of interest. MVA are useful because they help to identify the most promising theoretical approaches, mediators and intervention components for behaviour change. However, the current literature suggests that MVA are often inappropriately conducted, poorly understood and inadequately presented. Main problems encountered in the published literature are explained and suggestions for overcoming weaknesses of current practice are proposed.

Conclusion The use of the most appropriate, currently available methods of MVA, and a correct, comprehensive presentation and interpretation of their findings, is of paramount importance for understanding how obesity can be treated and prevented.

(Received March 10 2008)

(Accepted July 29 2008)


c1 Corresponding author: Email