The role of gender and family support on dietary compliance in an African American adolescent hypertension prevention study
Social support experiences vary markedly across gender groups, and little is known about the role of social support in promoting healthy dietary compliance in African American adolescents who are at increased risk for developing hypertension. This study examined the relation between gender, dietary social support, and compliance to a low sodium diet. Casual blood pressures were also examined in relation to dietary compliance and gender. One hundred eighty-four healthy African American adolescents (83 boys, 101 girls) participated in an intensive 5-day low sodium diet (50 mEq/24 hr) as part of a hypertension prevention program. Emotional dietary social support from family members and friends was measured at baseline. Compliance was defined as urinary sodium excretion of≤ 50 mEq/24 hr at postsodium restriction. The results indicated a significant Gender × Compliance effect for positive family support (p > .05). Girls who were compliant reported higher levels of dietary support from family members (19.2 ± 7.8) than boys who were compliant (16.9 ± 7.0). In contrast, boys who were compliant reported lower levels of dietary support from family members (16.9 ± 7.0) than boys who were not compliant (20.2 ± 7.5). Systolic blood pressure showed a trend toward decreasing in compliant participants (104.4 ± 8.4 vs. 101.7 ± 8.0, mm Hg, p > .06), but the effect diminished when Quetelet Index (kg/m2) was controlled for in the analyses (p > .12). These results suggest that higher levels of emotional dietary support from family members are associated with better adherence to short-term sodium restriction for African American girls as compared to boys. Further research is needed to determine the long-term impact of social support on sodium restriction in adolescent populations.
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