Dietary counseling from infancy can improve cardiometabolic health

May 4, 2020

Long-term counseling about diet can have a positive effect on adult cardiometabolic health, according to a new study.

The best course of action to ensure good health outcomes and good dietary choices remains a bit of a mystery. However, a new Finnish study published in Lancet Child & Adolescent Health indicates that dietary counseling from infancy can have a positive effect on a child’s cardiometabolic health.1

Researchers created a randomized, controlled Special Turku Coronary Risk Factor Intervention Project, which was a 20-year dietary counseling intervention given biannually from infancy. Children were recruited into the study from well-baby clinics in Turku, Finland, at age 5 months. Each child was assigned to either the intervention or control group. Children in the intervention group were taught a heart-healthy diet, a low proportional intake of saturated fats and cholesterol, and parents and children had nutrition education sessions. Children in the control group were given basic health education at the well-baby clinics and in school. The intervention group showed positive effects during the intervention period.

Of the 1116 children in the original study, 507 participants’ data were analyzed at follow-up 6 years after the intervention ended. Participants in the intervention group had a slightly lower average saturated fat intake, in comparison with total energy intake, than the control group. More people in the intervention group consumed the targeted monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat-to-saturated fat ratio of more than 2:1 than the control group. More participants in the intervention group had the ideal total cholesterol concentration of less than 5.17 mmol/L and an optimal low-density lipoprotein cholesterol concentration of less than 3.0 mmol/L than the control group. The intervention group also had lower glucose.

The first follow-up to the study indicates that the effects of 20 years of dietary counseling continued after the counseling ended. This sustained benefit could indicate that starting counseling in infancy and maintaining counseling for several years could lead to sustained better diet quality and reduction in cardiometabolic risk factors.

References:

1.    Pahkala K, Laitinen TT, Niinikoski H, et al. Effects of 20-year infancy-onset dietary counselling on cardiometabolic risk factors in the Special Turku Coronary Risk Factor Intervention Project (STRIP): 6-year post-intervention follow-up. Lancet Child Adolesc Health. 2020;4(5):359-369. doi: 10.1016/S2352-4642(20)30059-6