Improving dietary quality in youth with type 1 diabetes: randomized clinical trial of a family-based behavioral intervention

Diets of children with type 1 diabetes are low in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and high in foods of minimal nutritional value, increasing risk for future adverse health outcomes. This 18-month randomized clinical trial tested the effect of a family-based behavioral intervention integrating motivational interviewing, active learning, and applied problem-solving on the primary outcomes of dietary intake and glycemic control among youth with type 1 diabetes.
A parallel-group study with equal randomization was conducted at an outpatient, free-standing, multidisciplinary tertiary diabetes center in the United States. Eligible youth were those age 8–16 years with type 1 diabetes diagnosis ≥1 year and hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) ≥6.5% and ≤10.0%. Participants were 136 parent-youth dyads (treatment n = 66, control n = 70). The intervention consisted of 9 in-clinic sessions delivered to the child and parent; control condition comprised equivalent assessments and number of contacts without dietary advice. Dietary intake was assessed using 3-day diet records at 6 time points across the 18-month study. Dietary outcomes included the Healthy Eating Index-2005 (HEI2005; index measuring conformance to the 2005 United States Dietary Guidelines for Americans) and Whole Plant Food Density (WPFD; number of cup or ounce equivalents per 1000 kcal of whole grains, whole fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds consumed). HbA1c was obtained every 3 months. Overall comparison of outcome variables between intervention and usual care groups was conducted using permutation tests.
There was a positive intervention effect across the study duration for HEI2005 (p = .015) and WPFD (p = .004). At 18 months, HEI2005 was 7.2 greater (mean ± SE 64.6 ± 2.0 versus 57.4 ± 1.6), and WPFD was 0.5 greater (2.2 ± 0.1 versus 1.7 ± 0.1) in the intervention group versus control. There was no difference between groups in HbA1c across the study duration.
This behavioral nutrition intervention improved dietary quality among youth with type 1 diabetes, but did not impact glycemic control. Findings indicate the potential utility of incorporating such strategies into clinical care, and suggest that improvement in diet quality can be achieved in families living with this burdensome disease.Trial registration number: NCT00999375

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