Should the IDEFICS outcomes have been expected?

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The Identification and prevention of Dietary- and lifestyle-induced health EFfects In Children and infantS (IDEFICS) study evaluated with a large sample a comprehensive carefully planned obesity prevention intervention targeting multiple levels of influence that were culturally adapted to the situations in eight European countries. Despite the great effort and attention to detail, the IDEFICS study did not achieve its targeted adiposity or behaviour change objectives. Should we be surprised that the IDEFICS trial did not have its intended effects? We think not, and would have been surprised if it did. Recent research has revealed the lack of consistent meaningful relationships between several apparently obesogenic behaviours and adiposity, weak or no relationships among behavioural change procedures, mediating variables and targeted behaviours and inadequate attention to moderating effects. Future obesity prevention interventions would benefit from a more thorough understanding of the complex relationships that have been hypothesized and the interrelationships with biological factors. While systems modelling has been proposed as providing the solution, important less complex identification of new constructs, new relationships and community interventions are still needed, both to find innovative solutions and to provide input into the systems models. We should question results from cross-sectional studies and be satisfied only with longitudinal or experimental tests of relationships.

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