Dietary patterns and nutrient intakes of 7-year-old children taking part in an atherosclerosis prevention project in Finland

Minna Räsänen, Jan-Christian Lehtinen, Harri Niinikoski, Soili Keskinen, Soile Ruottinen, Mari Salminen, Tapani Rönnemaa, Jorma Viikari, Olli Simell
Journal of the American Dietetic Association 2002, 102 (4): 518-24

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the dietary patterns of 7-year-old children participating in an atherosclerosis prevention project and the relationship of those dietary patterns to nutrient intakes and serum cholesterol values.

DESIGN: In the randomized, prospective Special Turku Coronary Risk Factor Intervention Project (STRIP) 1,062 children were randomly assigned to an intervention group (n=540; low-saturated fat, low-cholesterol diet) or to a control group (n=522; unrestricted diet) at 7 months of age.

SUBJECTS/SETTINGS: The intervention families received, at 6-month intervals, individualized counseling that focused on the known environmental atherosclerosis risk factors and aimed at reducing children's saturated fat and cholesterol intake. Nutrition counseling was targeted at the child but, because of the young age of the children, was given to the parents. When children were 7 years old, food and nutrient intakes of 307 intervention and 323 control children were studied using 4-day food records.

STATISTICAL ANALYSES PERFORMED: K-means cluster analysis was used to classify children into 4 groups on the basis of similarity of food intake. Differences in nutrient intakes and serum lipid concentrations between children in the 4 food intake clusters were evaluated using Tukey's multiple comparison test.

RESULTS: Intervention children dominated the bread, skim milk, and margarine cluster and the cereals, rice, and pasta cluster whereas the 1.5%-fat milk and butter cluster included mainly control children. Saturated fat intake was nearest to the recommendations, that is 11.7% and 11.9% of energy, in the bread, skim milk, and margarine cluster and the cereals, rice, and pasta cluster, respectively. Children in the bread, skim milk, and margarine cluster had 20% to 27% higher fiber intakes (P<.001) whereas children in the sugar and sweets cluster had markedly higher sugar intakes than children in other clusters (P<.001). Serum cholesterol concentrations were lower in those clusters with high dietary ratios of polyunsaturated to saturated fat.

CONCLUSION: Detailed and repeated dietary counseling of parents, starting when children are aged 7 months, that aims at decreasing children's exposure to known nutrition risk factors for coronary heart disease modifies children's food patterns and nutrient intakes toward expected values.

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