Web-based interventions to help teens eat better and exercise more may show some benefits in the short term, but not in the long term.
A study of 883 12- and 13-year-olds in the Netherlands found that a Web-based intervention program designed to help them eat more fruits and vegetables, drink fewer sugary beverages and increase their activity found that a few strategies worked after four months, not not two years later.
The students were randomly assigned to take part in the program or continue their regular diet and activity regimen. Those in the intervention engaged in an interactive curriculum that included a health education component, tailored feedback on their behavior, plus opportunities to plan and set goals. In addition to reviewing results among all the students, researchers also looked at a sub-group considered at risk if they didn't meet any of the behavioral guidelines at the beginning of the study, such as eating fruits and vegetables and getting exercise.
First, the good news: After four months, those in the Web group were less likely to drink more than about a pint a day of a sugar-sweetened beverage compared with the control group -- but not the at-risk group. Those in the intervention group ate fewer snacks than the controls. The at-risk students in the intervention group ate more fruit than those in the control group, and the intervention group and the at-risk kids in that group ate more vegetables than controls.