Research Updates

Phase 3 complete in project examining targeted, framed, efficacy-enhancing messages for increase milk and milk product consumption in adults aged 30-50 years    

The Diabetes Prevention Research Group has spent the last 9-months working on this research program and in December 2012 our third and final stage was complete. We are now in a position to present some (very preliminary) findings with you!

A recent survey of over 35,000 Canadians revealed that 65% of men and 72% of women aged 31-50 years failed to consume the recommended number of milk and milk product servings per day. The aim of this research program were two fold: 1) Create meaningful, persuasive messages and 2) test the efficacy of these messages for increasing milk and milk product consumption in men and women aged 30-50 years old. The program consisted of three phases.

In phase 1, eight focus groups were held to ascertain individuals’ motives and strategies for consuming milk and milk products. Separate groups were conducted for men and women, as well as adequate and inadequate milk and milk product consumers. Findings from these focus groups revealed that physical benefits (e.g., fitness and health), and taste were highly valued outcomes for individuals when consuming these products. Gender differences were also apparent. Men expressed a desire for factual information from reputable sources, while women valued messages relating to well-being and health and were not interested in aesthetic appeals. Both groups expressed concerns about the content of milk and milk products. From the information obtained during these focus groups, 40 gender-targeted messages were developed in phase 2.

How well these messages influenced peoples behaviour (i.e., message efficacy) was examined in a randomized experimental trial in phase 3. Participants received intervention materials (i.e., messages) once per day for four consecutive days via emails. Continued monitoring of participants’ milk and milk product consumption occurring at baseline and once per week for 4 weeks following intervention delivery. A total of 464 females and 269 males took part in the intervention. The results revealed that all the targeted messages were effective at significantly increasing participant’s calcium intake from dairy products. Impressively, this change in volitional behaviour was maintained over the course of the 4-week follow up. Analyses revealed that there were significant differences between genders in their consumption of calcium from dairy following the intervention. Specifically, men reported a greater increase in consumption than women after the intervention; this difference was seen throughout the follow up period. This suggests that men were more influenced by the information provided within the messages and therefore displayed greater changes in behaviour than women.

In addition to these findings the results revealed that participants self-regulatory beliefs for dairy consumption significantly predicted levels of dairy consumption. Therefore, when individuals are confident in their ability to manage their behaviour (i.e., make sure they consume 2 or more servings of dairy daily), even when they have limited time, they are more likely to perform that behaviour. This latter result highlights the relevance and importance of our findings in relation to psychosocial factors influencing volitional milk and milk product consumption: we successfully designed and implemented persuasive messages that lead to increased confidence to consume adequate amounts of dairy products per day, which in turn lead to increased dairy consumption.