New NHLBI-sponsored study shows programs can teach children to eat healthier

Parents, take heart: You can teach your child to eat healthier. A study of preadolescent children found that those who attended a behaviorally oriented nutrition education program and were taught to follow a diet low in saturated fat and dietary cholesterol adopted significantly better dietary habits over several years compared to their peers who received only general nutritional information.

The study showed that after three years, children in the intervention group consumed more than 67 percent of their total calories on average from heart-healthy foods, compared to less than 57 percent for children in the usual care group.

The results, published in the June issue of Pediatrics, are from a new ancillary study of the Dietary Intervention Study in Children (DISC). Scientists reviewed dietary recalls from 595 children who were ages 8 to 10 and who had high blood cholesterol levels at the start of the study. The researchers analyzed dietary information by food groups and measured adherence to recommended food patterns and changes over time.

"These new findings offer valuable lessons for finding effective ways to help children develop healthier eating habits a critical need in light of the rising rates of obesity and related conditions among children," said Elizabeth G. Nabel, MD, director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), which sponsored the study. NHLBI is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The study provides glimpses of real-world eating behavior and reveals the challenges of trying to eat a healthy diet in a fast-paced world. For example, the study documents a long-suspected phenomenon of modern society: approximately one-third of the total daily calories consumed by the children in both groups came from snack foods, desserts, and pizza.

The main DISC trial is the first long-term clinical trial of the effects of a fat-reduced dietary intervention on growing children. Over the seve

Contact: NHLBI Communications Office
NIH/National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

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