According to the researchers at Penn State, this curriculum could be an effective method as it could further act as a medical nutrition therapy.
The findings of the research appeared in the September/October issue of Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.
"We wanted to see if people were at higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease if they were not eating competent to begin with," Barbara Lohse, associate professor of nutritional sciences said. So, Lohse and her colleagues Sheila G. West, associate professor of biobehavioral health, and Tricia L. Psota, graduate student conducted a survey to measure eating competence of people.
Eating competence was measured among 48 men and women aged 21 to 70, who were at risk for heart disease. Eating competence, as defined by registered dietitian and mental health professional Ellyn Satter, is a nutritional model, termed as ecSatter. It incorporates processes such as awareness of hunger, appetite and eating enjoyment with the body's biological tendency to maintain a preferred and stable weight.
"This population was already at high risk due to high levels of LDL - the bad cholesterol - and elevated total cholesterol, but did not have any other type of chronic disease," Lohse said.
According to the feedback to a questionnaire on eating competence, and readings of various biological markers of cardiovascular disease, the researchers found that participants who were not eating competent were five times more likely to have a LDL greater than the cutoff prescribed by the American Heart Association, and seven times more likely to have levels greater than that for triglyceride.
Based on the research, Lohse said that rather than only providing people with dietary information to lower their LDL or triglyceride levels, it might be more prudent to train people in becoming eating competent. However, she cautions that the results offer only a snapshot in time indicating that future longitudinal studies will be required to reach a more comprehensive conclusion.
"What we have shown with this research is that we now have an instrument to measure eating competence. We are developing a curriculum that we are going to test until we know it instills eating competence," Lohse said.
The Penn State researcher said that such a curriculum might provide a possible successful option to encourage eating behaviors that we know are associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease.