Reducing saturated fat intake in children: long-term impact

Author: Karl E. Miller
Date: Sept 15, 2004

A prospective trial called the Special Turku Coronary Risk Factor Intervention Project (STRIP) was developed and implemented in 1989 in an effort to assess an intervention aimed at reducing coronary risk factors after the first year of life.

The initial study recruited infants and their parents. Participants were randomized to receive at least biannual individualized counseling about ways to modify fat intake in their child's diet or to participate in a control group that received no intervention. Initial reports found that dietary counseling did change fat intake in children between eight months and four years of age when the intervention group was compared with the control group. The question concerning this intervention is whether the dietary differences between the two groups would persist as the children grew. Talvia and colleagues evaluated the longitudinal impact of this dietary counseling intervention on the children's nutritional intake.

The study was a prospective, randomized, clinical trial of children who were recruited at five months of age during well-child visits. Children whose parents agreed to participate in the study were assigned randomly to an intervention or a control group. The intervention group received biannual individualized dietary counseling about ways to modify the quality and quantity of fat in their child's diet. The goal for the ratio of unsaturated to saturated fats was 2:1. Before each visit, participants completed a food record for four consecutive days throughout the study period; records were reviewed annually between four and 10 years of age. The main outcome measured was nutrient intake.

The intervention group had 540 children, and the control group had 522. Children in the intervention group had significantly less fat intake compared with the control group. The intervention group also had higher intake of polyunsaturated fats and less intake of saturated fat than the control group. Neither group obtained the 2:1 unsaturated-to-saturated fatty acid ratio. There were no differences between the groups with regard to vitamin and mineral intake.

The authors conclude that individualized, biannual counseling about fat intake starting at eight months of age had a positive inf luence on the dietary habits of children four to 10 years of age. They add that this intervention did have a positive impact on dietary fat intake, but that it did not adversely affect the intake of vitamins and minerals. The authors note that despite this intervention, the children still did not reach the goal of a 2:1 unsaturated-to-saturated fatty acid ratio.

Talvia S, et al. A randomized intervention since infancy to reduce intake of saturated fat. Calorie (energy) and nutrient intakes up to the age of 10 years in the Special Turku Coronary Risk Factor Intervention Project. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med January 2004;158:41-7.

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