Vegetables at a farmer's market. (AP Photo)
(CNSNews.com) - The federal government has spent nearly $3 million on a web-based intervention study that aims to have young adults increase their intake of fruits and vegetables.
The 5-year “MENU (Making Effective Nutritional Choices) Gen Y Study” has received $2,834,393 in taxpayer money since 2012. The goal of the effort “is to increase daily intake of fruits and vegetables for young adults born in or after 1980, known as "Generation Y," according to the project description on the National Institute of Health (NIH) website.
“There seems to be a way, based on what we found out, that you can engage young adults and they will respond to information that appeals to them and make a change,” Project Leader Dr. Gwen Alexander of Henry Ford Health Systems told CNSNews.
The project encouraged 21- to 30-year-olds to participate in an online nutritional intervention program catered to the personal tastes of Generation Y.
Program participants were enlisted through letters inviting them to take part in the effort. “We have a new program we would like for you to try it out and give us some evaluation and for that we’ll give you incentive money up to $100 over the next 12 months,” Alexander said when discussing the recruitment letter.
The respondents logged onto a website where they took surveys and received nutrition information over several months that was crafted to Gen Y’s tastes and web habits.
Alexander says, “This intervention wasn’t to get people to stop eating french fries or get away from fatty meat. It was really geared to fruits and vegetables. We included information about reducing the amount of sweetened drinks because that is the tsunami of obesity.”
Some who engaged in the program received periodic e-coaching. Alexander describes e-coaching as a positive, motivational approach in encouraging a healthy lifestyle.
“The coach doesn’t say, ‘I think you better get going with your fruit.’ They say ‘wow it sounds like you’re learning a lot.’ It’s all encouragement and kudos. And we know from young adults they’re used to getting a lot of kudos.”
“We found out from talking to young adults that if they say, ‘yeah I added a serving – 3 days a week I’ve added more fruits.’ They want somebody to go ‘wow that’s great’ because that ‘everybody gets a trophy’ kind of thing was their environment growing up. So we added more kudos in the e-coaching thing,” Alexander said.
While the project is still ongoing, Alexander is excited about the early results. “We’ve been able to take a look at the earlier surveys and it looks like people are changing and maintaining the change. It’s really very exciting,” she says.
“They also are the parents of the next generation. And if young adults can learn to eat better while they’re young adults then they will raise their children to try a variety of fruits and vegetables and not just apples, bananas and grapes.”