Early heart healthy education helps avoid heart disease, study

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Fat intake Nutrition Fat Coronary heart disease

Educating children about heart healthy eating habits can strongly
influence their heart disease risk later in life, says a new study.

Lowering intake of foods high in saturated fat was found to be key to these education efforts, according to researchers at the University of Turku in Finland. Published in a mid-August edition of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association​, the results form the new study claim to provide "landmark implications"​ for how children should be taught to eat. A child's fat intake, primarily a reduction in intake of saturated fat, was found to be one of the greatest influencing factors, according to the researchers. Some 540 children and their families underwent intensive diet counseling for the study. A control group consisting of 522 children and family members received only basic dietary advice. The goal of dietary counseling for the intervention group was to keep total intake of fat at 30 percent to 35 percent of daily calories, the ration of saturated fat to unsaturated fats at 1:2, and cholesterol intake to less than 200mg daily. "The aim of the diet counseling in our study was not to reduce the total number of fat calories in the diet, but to shift the child's intake from saturated towards unsaturated fats and have cholesterol intake of less than 200mg (such as the use of more vegetable oils than animal fats and butter),"​ wrote Dr Harri Niinikoski, lead author and pediatric endocrinologist at the University of Turku. Key dietary changes in intervention families included using soft margarine and liquid oils instead of butter to maintain adequate fat intake while lowering consumption of saturated fat and cholesterol, said the researchers. In addition, adjustments were made to the type of milk consumed by the children. Consumption of vegetables, fruits, berries and whole grain products was also encouraged. According to the researchers, a low-saturated-fat, low-cholesterol-oriented nutrition intervention had a favorable effect on saturated fat intake and total and LDL cholesterol concentrations throughout the first 14 years of life, with percent of cholesterol lowering differing by age and sex. The lipid lowering effect was maintained through pre-puberty and puberty, when children consume increasingly more of their dietary intakes away from home, said the researchers. "We feel that lifetime habits form early in life and healthier lifestyles should be started earlier in life,"​ said Niinikoski. "In the long run, even a minor decrease in serum cholesterol concentrations in a large population can have a major influence on coronary heart disease." ​ Source: 'Impact of Repeated Dietary Counseling Between Infancy and 14 Years of Age on Dietary Intakes and Serum Lipids and Lipoproteins: The STRIP Study' Circulation,​ Aug 2007; 116: 1032 - 1040. Authors: Harri Niinikoski, Hanna Lagström, Eero Jokinen, Marja Siltala, Tapani Rönnemaa, Jorma Viikari, Olli T. Raitakari, Antti Jula, Jukka Marniemi, Kirsti Näntö-Salonen, and Olli Simell.

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