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Title: Diet In Children, Is It Important In Preventing Heart Disease?

Category: Child Care


Recently the Department of Agriculture released a new recommendation on diet. They now recommend a pyramid approach with primary emphasis on the lower end of the pyramid. At the bottom of the pyramid are starches which should be the center of diet for all of us in society including children. Next comes fruits and vegetables, then meats and milk products and finally sweets, oils and nuts. This pyramid is different from the previous four food group approach which over-emphasized milk and meat products and under-emphasized starches vegetables and fruits. I strongly agree with this change in direction by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Several best selling diet books in the past few years have been proponents of this same concept including the McDougle Plan, The Feingold Diet, Eat to Win, and several others. Increasing evidence shows us that starches, which are low in cholesterol and fat, are the ideal basis to center our diet around. Vegetables and fruits are loaded with healthy vitamins and fiber and are also low in fat. Meats and milk products are high in protein but are also high in fat and cholesterol. They should be the third tier and not the center of our diet.

In the July "Pediatrics Journal", a cholesterol screening program found TV viewing to be a very strong predictor of high cholesterol in children, even more than a family history of high cholesterol or heart disease. In over 1000 children studied, those watching 2 to 4 hours per day were 4 times more likely to have high levels. Common sense tells us to limit our children's TV viewing time. This study result is one more good reason to do so.

Eating is a lifetime habit. By starting our children on a diet such as the new one recommended by the USDA, we can help to minimize obesity in our children. A new study from the Journal of Pediatrics also indicates that we would be helping to decrease their heart disease. The study which was done at the University of Iowa showed a very strong correlation with cardiovascular death and obesity and high blood pressure. If your child has high blood pressure (even a high systolic blood pressure) and is obese and the family history is positive for heart disease, please consult your pediatrician or family doctor. Several recommendations will be made including controlling cholesterol, triglycerides and general obesity. A good cardiovascular assessment and plan is certainly worth while in all of us but particularly in high risk patients such as these obese teens and even preteens. In summary, if we can eat smart as adults and teach our children to eat smart, we will be doing them a life time favor and helping to prevent their later suffering and heart disease.