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NHLBI study shows reduced fat intake to lower cholesterol is safe and beneficial for children

Children with high blood cholesterol levels can benefit from reducing the amount of fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol in their diets without adversely affecting their normal development during puberty, according to new results from a long-term study funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). The study appears in the February issue of the journal Pediatrics.

In the Dietary Intervention Study in Children (DISC), children who adopted a recommended low-fat, low-cholesterol diet decreased their intake of total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol within the first year of the study and maintained lower levels for several more years. These dietary modifications did not alter the children's growth, nutritional status, or sexual maturation throughout the seven-year study. Furthermore, the diet helped the children significantly decrease their blood levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) - the "bad" cholesterol - for up to three years.

"This is the first study of this size to examine the long-term effects of reduced dietary saturated fat and cholesterol intake among children," said Dr. Claude Lenfant, NHLBI director. "DISC confirms that dietary changes in children with high levels of LDL cholesterol may thwart the development of atherosclerosis without adverse effects."

During the past decade, scientists have found increasing evidence that atherosclerosis begins in childhood and that children and adolescents with high cholesterol levels are more likely than those with normal or low levels to have high cholesterol levels as adults.

In a 1991 report, the National Cholesterol Education Program's (NCEP) Expert Panel on Blood Cholesterol Levels in Children and Adolescents recommended cholesterol screening for children and adolescents with a family history of early heart disease or with a parent who has high blood cholesterol. Children and adolescents from such high-risk families who are found to have elevated blood cholesterol levels
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Contact: NHLBI Press Office
301-496-4236
NIH/National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
5-Feb-2001


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