Public Health Nutrition

Short Communication

Tailored nutrition education: is it really effective?

Helen Eylesa1 c1 and Cliona Ni Mhurchua1

a1 Clinical Trials Research Unit, School of Population Health, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland 1142, New Zealand


Objective There has been a growing interest in tailored nutrition education over the previous decade, with a number of literature reviews suggesting this intervention strategy holds considerable potential. Nevertheless, the majority of intervention trials undertaken to date have employed subjective self-report outcome measures (such as dietary recalls). The aim of the present review is to further consider the likely true effect of tailored nutrition education by assessing the findings of tailored nutrition education intervention trials where objective outcome measures (such as sales data) have been employed.

Results Four trials of tailored nutrition education employing objective outcome measures were identified: one was undertaken in eight low-cost supermarkets in New Zealand (2010; n 1104); one was an online intervention trial in Australia (2006; n 497); and two were undertaken in US supermarkets (1997 and 2001; n 105 and 296, respectively). Findings from the high-quality New Zealand trial were negative. Findings from the US trials were also generally negative, although reporting was poor making it difficult to assess quality. Findings from the high-quality online trial were positive, although have limited generalisability for public health.

Conclusions Trials employing objective outcome measures strongly suggest tailored nutrition education is not effective as a stand-alone strategy. However, further large, high-quality trials employing objective outcome measures are needed to determine the true effectiveness of this popular nutrition intervention strategy. Regardless, education plays an important role in generating social understanding and acceptance of broader interventions to improve nutrition.

(Received December 20 2010)

(Accepted July 27 2011)

(Online publication October 11 2011)


c1 Corresponding author: Email