Conversations with their beauticians about eating fruits and vegetables could help African-American women make healthier food choices and fight obesity, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Reuters Health reported.

Compared with white women, black women generally don’t eat as many fruits and vegetables, and they get less exercise and drink less water. These behaviors increase their risk of obesity, diabetes and heart diseases.

For the study, researchers from South Carolina State University and Florida State University monitored two salons in a rural African-American community in South Carolina for six weeks. One salon offered select clients a health intervention program that included scripted motivational sessions, information packets and kits of sample items such as fruits and vegetables, while the other salon provided no health program.

By the end of the program, scientists found that women who received health materials from a beautician increased their average fruit and vegetable intake from about two servings each day to three and a half servings each day. (Clients in the control salon saw no nutritional improvements.)

“The respect for cosmetologists within the African-American community allows for dialog to flow freely and for all within the salon to share their stories about personal life concerns, including health,” said lead researching Latasha Johnson, a student at South Carolina State University.

While researchers agree that a larger, long-term study is needed to confirm the findings, they do think that a community-based approach to providing health information (such as training beauticians about nutrition) can succeed.

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