Effectiveness of monetary incentives in modifying dietary behavior:a review of randomized, controlled trials

Nutr Rev. 2006 Dec;64(12):518-31. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2006.tb00185.x.


To review research evidence on the effectiveness of monetary incentives in modifying dietary behavior, we conducted a systematic review of randomized, controlled trials (RCTs) identified from electronic bibliographic databases and reference lists of retrieved relevant articles. Studies eligible for inclusion met the following criteria: RCT comparing a form of monetary incentive with a comparative intervention or control; incentives were a central component of the study intervention and their effect was able to be disaggregated from other intervention components; study participants were community-based; and outcome variables included anthropometric or dietary assessment measures. Data were extracted on study populations, setting, interventions, outcome variables, trial duration, and follow-up. Appraisal of trial methodological quality was undertaken based on comparability of baseline characteristics, randomization method, allocation concealment, blinding, follow-up, and use of intention-to-treat analysis. Four RCTs were identified as meeting the inclusion criteria. All four trials demonstrated a positive effect of monetary incentives on food purchases, food consumption, or weight loss. However, the trials had some methodological limitations including small sample sizes and short durations. In addition, no studies to date have assessed effects according to socioeconomic or ethnic group or measured the cost-effectiveness of such schemes. Monetary incentives are a promising strategy to modify dietary behavior, but more research is needed to address the gaps in evidence. In particular, larger, long-term RCTs are needed with population groups at high risk of nutrition-related diseases.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Behavior Therapy*
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Motivation*
  • Patient Participation
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Reward
  • Sample Size
  • Time Factors