Objective: To compare the results and cost-effectiveness of a cholesterol lowering protocol implemented by registered dietitians with cholesterol lowering advice by physicians.
Design: Six month randomized controlled trial, cost-effectiveness analysis. Subjects included 90 ambulatory care patients (60 men, 30 women), age range 21 to 65 years, with hypercholesterolemia and not taking hypolipidemic drugs. Patients were randomly assigned to receive medical nutrition therapy (MNT) from dietitians using a NCEP based lowering protocol or usual care (UC) from physicians. Outcome measures were plasma lipid profiles, dietary intake, weight, activity, patient satisfaction, and costs of MNT. Changes from baseline for each variable of interest were compared between treatment groups using analysis of covariance controlling for baseline value of the variable and gender.
Results: MNT achieved a 6% decrease in total and LDL cholesterol levels at 3 and 6 months compared with a 1% increase and a 2% decrease in both values at 3 and 6 months with UC (P<.001 and P<.05, respectively). Weight loss (1.9 vs 0 kg, P<.001) and dietary intake of saturated fat (7% of energy vs 10%, P<.001) were better in the MNT than the UC group. The additional costs of MNT were $217 per patient to achieve a 6% reduction in cholesterol and $98 per patient to sustain the reduction. The cost-effectiveness ratio for MNT was $36 per 1% decrease in cholesterol and LDL level.
Applications/conclusions: MNT from registered dietitians is a reasonable investment of resources because it results in significantly better lipid, diet, activity, weight, and patient satisfaction outcomes than UC.