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Research on Smoking, Weight Loss Behaviors Presented By University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing Faculty and Students


Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing presented findings at the Society for Behavioral Medicine’s (SBM) 28th Annual Meeting and Scientific Sessions. The highlights are as follows:

Abnormal lung CT findings may prompt smokers to quit

Computed tomography (CT) screening can be useful in detecting lung cancer in its earliest stages. According to Pitt research led by Mindi Styn, Ph.D., G.S.R., CT screening also may be a handy tool in getting smokers to attempt to quit. Data from Dr. Styn’s dissertation, which was presented at the session, “Lung Cancer Screening & Treatment: Maximizing the Teachable Moment,” suggests that smokers who are referred for further evaluation as the result of an abnormal CT are more likely to try to kick the habit.

Dr. Styn examined quitting behaviors of a group of participants in the Pittsburgh Lung Screening Study, a low-dose CT screening study that involved current and former smokers between the ages of 50 and 79 who had smoked at least a half pack of cigarettes every day for at least 25 years. When controlling for other factors that influence quitting, such as marital status and symptoms of lung disease, individuals with CT referrals were more likely to have attempted, either successfully or unsuccessfully, to quit when compared to participants who did not receive a CT referral.

These results suggest that health care professionals may be able to take advantage of an abnormal CT finding in order to encourage a patient to quit smoking.

Other researchers involved in this project are: Kenneth Perkins, Ph.D., Marjorie Romkes, Ph.D., and Joel Weissfield, Ph.D., all of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and Stephanie Land, Ph.D., of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.

Many continue to eat typical high-fat American diet even when trying to lose weight

More than half of dieters ignore standard recommendations of reducing their fat intake and increasing carbohydrate consumption, according to findings from a Pitt team led by Lora Burke, Ph.D., F.A.A.N., principle investigator of the study and professor of nursing and epidemiology. The study, “Dietary Practices Among People Seeking Weight Loss Treatment,” used a 38-item questionnaire to identify dieters’ eating habits. Based on those responses, the researchers discovered that 55 percent of the individuals surveyed showed eating patterns consistent with the typical American diet, which is comprised of more than 40 percent fat and less than 45 percent carbohydrates.

The study also examined the eating patterns of a number of sub-categories, which also resulted in findings of note. Non-white participants were likely to have higher fat and cholesterol intake, and unemployed participants had scores that indicated higher cholesterol-saturated fat intake. Additionally, individuals with no education beyond high school consumed fewer carbohydrates. The study’s findings suggest that socio-demographic factors should be considered by health care providers attempting to improve their patients’ eating habits.

Other researchers on the project included Mindi Styn, Ph.D., Edvin Music, M.S.I.S., and Melanie Warziski, B.S.N., all from the Pitt School of Nursing.

Dieters following vegetarian regimen have similar experiences to those who do not eliminate meat

Because people are more likely to maintain a behavior if they have positive experiences when they adopt it, a group of researchers led by Lora Burke, Ph.D., sought to learn if individuals selecting a lacto-ovo-vegetarian (LOV) diet, which includes eggs and milk but no meat, had more positive experiences in six areas that affect diet maintenance, than those who followed a more standard diet that included meat products. Dr. Burke’s previous research suggests that a vegetarian diet has a positive influence on weight loss outcomes.

However, data from an 18-month study titled “Experiences Following a Low-Fat Diet Influence Dietary Maintenance,” in which the Experiences Associated with Following a Low-Fat Diet (ELF) Questionnaire was administered to dieters in six-month intervals, suggests that LOV dieters and standard eaters had similar experiences during their maintenance phases. Additionally, the ELF data, which measured experiences such as wellness, inconvenience and family support, suggested that time had greater influence on maintenance factors than did category of diet. While there was little divergence in total ELF scores between the two groups of dieters, variation within certain areas were noted. The standard group experienced a greater decline in its wellness scores over time, while the LOV group were less likely to have family support at all time points.

The research team on this project also included Dr. Styn, Okan Elci, M.S., Susan Sereika, Ph.D., Mr. Music and Ms. Warziski.

The University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing ranked tenth overall among the nation’s top schools of nursing in the past two issues of U.S. News and World Report’s “America’s Best Graduate Schools,” and fifth in research dollars by the National Institutes of Health. The School of Nursing educates nurses for an increasingly demanding environment through a curriculum that combines rigorous academic work with varied and intensive clinical experiences and a growing involvement in research. More than 11,000 students have graduated from the School of Nursing’s baccalaureate, masters, RN options and doctoral programs since the School was founded in 1939.


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