Open Access Research article

Effectiveness of dietary interventions among adults of retirement age: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

Jose Lara12*, Nicola Hobbs3, Paula J Moynihan125, Thomas D Meyer4, Ashley J Adamson136, Linda Errington7, Lynn Rochester2, Falko F Sniehotta36, Martin White136 and John C Mathers128

Author Affiliations

1 Human Nutrition Research Centre, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne NE4 5PL, UK

2 Institute for Ageing and Health, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

3 Institute of Health and Society, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

4 Institute of Neuroscience, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

5 Centre for Oral Health Research, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

6 Fuse, UKCRC Centre for Translational Research in Public Health, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

7 Walton Library, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

8 Centre for Brain Ageing and Vitality, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

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BMC Medicine 2014, 12:60  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-12-60

Published: 8 April 2014



Retirement from work involves significant lifestyle changes and may represent an opportunity to promote healthier eating patterns in later life. However, the effectiveness of dietary interventions during this period has not been evaluated.


We undertook a systematic review of dietary interventions among adults of retirement transition age (54 to 70 years). Twelve electronic databases were searched for randomized controlled trials evaluating the promotion of a healthy dietary pattern, or its constituent food groups, with three or more months of follow-up and reporting intake of specific food groups. Random-effects models were used to determine the pooled effect sizes. Subgroup analysis and meta-regression were used to assess sources of heterogeneity.


Out of 9,048 publications identified, 68 publications reporting 24 studies fulfilled inclusion criteria. Twenty-two studies, characterized by predominantly overweight and obese participants, were included in the meta-analysis. Overall, interventions increased fruit and vegetable (F&V) intake by 87.5 g/day (P <0.00001), with similar results in the short-to-medium (that is, 4 to 12 months; 85.6 g/day) and long-term (that is, 13 to 58 months; 87.0 g/day) and for body mass index (BMI) stratification. Interventions produced slightly higher intakes of fruit (mean 54.0 g/day) than of vegetables (mean 44.6 g/day), and significant increases in fish (7 g/day, P = 0.03) and decreases in meat intake (9 g/day, P <0.00001).


Increases in F&V intakes were positively associated with the number of participant intervention contacts. Dietary interventions delivered during the retirement transition are therefore effective, sustainable in the longer term and likely to be of public health significance.

Mediterranean diet; Fruit and vegetables; Retirement; Aging; Randomized controlled trial; Systematic review; Meta-analysis