Randomized trial of a "talking computer" to improve adults' eating habits

Am J Health Promot. 2001 Mar-Apr;15(4):215-24. doi: 10.4278/0890-1171-15.4.215.


Purpose: To assess efficacy of an intervention delivered by an interactive, computer-controlled telephone system to improve individuals' diets.

Design: Randomized controlled trial.

Setting: Large multispecialty group practice.

Subjects: Two hundred ninety-eight adults who were both sedentary and had suboptimal diet quality.

Intervention: Weekly communication for 6 months via a totally automated, computer-based voice system. Among intervention group subjects, the system monitored dietary habits and provided educational feedback, advice, and behavioral counseling. Control group subjects received physical activity promotion counseling.

Measures: Daily intake of fruits, vegetables, red and processed meats, whole fat dairy foods, and whole grain foods estimated from a food frequency questionnaire.

Results: Mean age 45.9 years, 72% women, 45% white, and 45% African-American. Among participants who completed diet assessments, compared with the control group, the intervention raised fruit intake a mean of 1.1 servings per day (95% confidence interval [CI] .4, 1.7). On a 0 to 100 global diet quality score combining all five food groups, intervention participants improved their mean score 9 (95% CI 4, 13) points more than in the control group. The intervention also raised dietary fiber intake 4.0 g/d (95% CI .1, 7.8) and decreased saturated fat, as a proportion of energy intake, by 1.7% (95% CI -2.7, -.7).

Conclusions: This computer-based telecommunications dietary behavior intervention helped improve participants' overall diet.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Computer-Assisted Instruction*
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Telephone*
  • User-Computer Interface