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Sunday, April 3, 2016

Monetary incentives for healthy behaviour can work well

A team of US researchers has found that monetary rewards for healthy behaviour can pay off both in the pocketbook and in positive psychological factors like internal motivation to eat fruits and vegetables, according to a study. 

The study, which encouraged daily consumption of fruits and vegetables in exchange for payment, not only showed monetary incentives worked, but that participants increased their internal motivation to eat fruits and vegetables over time. 

Increased fruit and vegetable consumption by participants is linked to more positive attitudes and self efficacy — the confidence in one’s own ability to succeed
“While programmes involving monetary incentives to encourage healthy behaviour have become more popular in recent years, the evidence has been mixed as to how they can be most effective and how participants fare
once the incentives stop,” said lead author Casey Gardiner from University of Colorado Boulder in US.
“Some psychological research and theories suggest that if individuals have external motivations like payment to perform tasks, their internal, or intrinsic motivation can be undermined,” said Gardiner of the psychology and neuroscience department.

The findings showed that participants who were assigned to receive payment for eating fruits and vegetables were still consuming more than usual two weeks after the study ended.

In the study, 60 adults were randomly assigned to three different groups.

Individuals in one group received $1 for every serving of fruits and vegetables they reported consuming daily over a three-week period.

People in the second group accrued $1 for every serving of fruits and vegetables eaten, with the lump sum money delivered at the end of the study.

Participants in the third group reported their fruit and vegetable consumption daily for three weeks with no incentives.

The participants who received daily monetary incentives had the greatest increase in their fruit and vegetable consumption.

“This finding highlights the importance of incentive design in health programmes and differences in the timing or type of incentive can alter their effectiveness,” Gardiner stated.

We essentially showed that incentives may be able to help people to ‘jumpstart’ behaviour changes, but that changes in key psychological factors help people maintain the behaviour when the incentives end, Gardiner noted.

Overfed foetus may become an overweight adolescent

A foetus that is fed with excess nutrition is likely to become an overweight adolescent, new research has found, raising the importance of increasing maternal health before and during pregnancy to improve the health of the child.

The findings of the study showed that higher levels of blood markers in the umbilical cord of the pregnant mother makes the baby fattier, as well as puts the baby in danger of becoming obese in late childhood and adolescence.

Higher levels of Leptin and Adiponectin — proteins involved in the regulation of fat and umbilical cord blood markers — at birth led to greater fat in the child both at the age of 9 and 17.

“Foetal overnutrition may facilitate foetal growth and fat accretion, as determined by cord leptin and birthweight, and may program greater adiposity in the child that extends into childhood and adolescence,” said lead author Joy Simpson, clinical research fellow at University of Glasgow, in Britain.

Also, being over weight at birth also corresponded to the increase of fat mass in children at ages 9 and 17.
Birthweight was positively associated with fat mass, waist circumference and body mass index at age 9 and 17,” Simpson added.

The results also showed that leptin was positively associated with fat mass, waist circumference and body mass index at age 9 and 17, but that the effect was diminished when they adjusted for pregnancy characteristics.

Adiponectin was not associated with any measures at age 9, but at age 17, the cord-blood protein was positively associated with fat mass and waist circumference.

Moreover, at age 17, the effect size after adjusting for maternal and pregnancy characteristics was strengthened.

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