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A commentary on current practice in mediating variable analyses in behavioural nutrition and physical activity

  • Ester Cerin (a1) and David P MacKinnon (a2)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 August 2009

To critique current practice in, and provide recommendations for, mediating variable analyses (MVA) of nutrition and physical activity behaviour change.


Theory-based behavioural nutrition and physical activity interventions aim at changing mediating variables that are hypothesized to be responsible for changes in the outcome of interest. MVA are useful because they help to identify the most promising theoretical approaches, mediators and intervention components for behaviour change. However, the current literature suggests that MVA are often inappropriately conducted, poorly understood and inadequately presented. Main problems encountered in the published literature are explained and suggestions for overcoming weaknesses of current practice are proposed.


The use of the most appropriate, currently available methods of MVA, and a correct, comprehensive presentation and interpretation of their findings, is of paramount importance for understanding how obesity can be treated and prevented.

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