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Effect of a low-carbohydrate nutrition education program on dietary choices and metabolic health in women from low-income South African communities.
Institution: University of Cape Town
Researchers: Emeritus Professor Tim Noakes, Dr James Smith, Dr Kate Larmuth, Georgina Pujol-Busquet PhD Researcher
Background: Overconsumption of sugar, refined carbohydrates and poor quality oils, increases the risk for developing chronic diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Families from poor communities are often forced to eat these harmful nutrients due to a lack of nutrition education, or because they cannot afford or don’t know how to access healthy foods. While poverty is an important barrier to health and education for both men and women, in South Africa, it tends to yield a higher burden on women. Eat Better South Africa, the community outreach branch of The Noakes Foundation, runs 6-week education interventions to teach people from poor communities how to choose affordable healthier foods that are lower in refined carbohydrates and higher in healthy fats.
Aim: This project aims to 1) optimise the EBSA program for women from poor communities and 2) evaluate its effectiveness for changing dietary behaviour and improving metabolic health. This is a multi-method collaborative project that will use qualitative research (one-on-one interviews and focus group discussions) to identify facilitators and barriers that women faced, and quantitative research (diet, food choice behaviour, and metabolic health markers) to assess changes before and after the program, compared to a control group.
This project will directly address national and international priorities by empowering disadvantaged women with the knowledge to improve diet and health for themselves and their families. This project will also publish data on the diet and health status of these women, the types of foods that are available and affordable to their communities, challenges they face to improve their diet and health, and the effectiveness of a low carbohydrate diet education program to change their diet and improve their health.
Update on the study: Phase 1 of this study has been completed which included interviews and focus group discussions with women from previous EBSA interventions. The aim of this was to identify the facilitators (factors favouring) and barriers (challenges) they experienced in attending the sessions, understanding the educational content of the intervention and implementing the dietary advice. Community assessments has also been done to assess modifiable risk behaviours (e.g. diet, smoking, physical activity) and qualitative interviews have be conducted in a pilot sample of women from these sites. The EBSA intervention will be revised based on these findings and tested in a pilot EBSA intervention to start May/June in Ocean View, pending ethics approval.
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