Early low-fat diet doesn't harm development

A low-fat, low-cholesterol diet in babies may protect against coronary heart disease in adulthood.

By | August 25, 2000

LONDON, August 25 (SPIS MedWire). Children who eat a low fat, low-cholesterol diet from infancy do not seem to suffer any adverse neurological consequences, according to data from the Turku Coronary Risk Factor Intervention Project (STRIP) study. Previous studies have suggested that modification of dietary patterns in babies to prevent atherosclerosis and heart disease does not affect growth, but there remain concerns over the possible effect on neurological development. The Finnish researchers, led by Leena Rask-Nissilä of the University of Turku, analyzed the effect of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol on 496 children from birth to five years. Participants were randomly assigned to receive individual counselling aimed at limited their child's fat intake to 30% to 35% of daily energy, with a saturated:monounsaturated:unsaturated fatty acid ratio 1:1:1 and a cholesterol intake of less than 200 mg/d, or usual health education (controls). After 13 to 60 months, serum cholesterol concentrations were consistently 3% to 5% lower in the intervention group than in the control group, whereas the ratio of HDL to total cholesterol was similar in both groups. In the screenings for neurological development, "the intervention group managed at least as well as the control group," according to the researchers. They note: "If the diet provides an adequate supply of calories, vitamins, essential fatty acids and other nutrients, there are no theoretical reasons why modification of dietary fat quality might be detrimental to a child's development." Rask-Nissilä et al conclude that their proposed diet, started in infancy, "may considerably influence the incidence of CHD in adulthood without adverse effects of neurological developments."

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