Dietary advice for children improves parental health
Nutrition advice aimed at children also improves their parents’ diets according to new European research.
The longitudinal randomised Special Turku Coronary Risk Factor Intervention Project (STRIP) decreased the saturated fat intake and improved the cardiovascular health of children by recommending foods rich in unsaturated, instead of saturated, fat. The study included 1107 infants and their parents who were recruited from Well Baby clinics in Turku, Finland, between 1989 and 1992. Families were randomly assigned to the dietary intervention (n=562) or control (n=545) groups.
The intervention group received dietary counselling at least once a year by a nutritionist when the children were between eight months and 20 years old. Counselling was first given only to the parents, and from the age of seven years, the children were also met alone. The main focus of the dietary intervention was to reduce the child’s intake of saturated fat and increase the child’s unsaturated fat intake. As previously reported (Niinikoski H, et al. Pediatrics 2012129:e704–e713), the repeated dietary counselling led to decreased saturated fat intake in the intervention children, and lower serum low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol concentration from infancy until 19 years of age.
In the new study, parental dietary intake was assessed by a one-day food recorded biennially when the children were aged between nine and 19 years. Weight, height, blood pressure, serum lipids, glucose and insulin of the parents were measured regularly from the child’s age of seven months until 20 years.
The investigators found that the child-oriented dietary counselling increased the intake of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats and decreased the saturated fat intake of parents in the intervention group compared to control parents. In addition, the counselling tended to decrease serum total and LDL concentrations in intervention mothers compared to control mothers. There was a similar trend in fathers but it was not statistically significant.
Long-term dietary counselling directed at children may be an efficient way to also improve the diets of parents. These findings could be used to plan public health counselling programmes and provides another route of improving adults’ health.
Jaakkola JM, et al. Longitudinal child-oriented dietary intervention: Association with parental diet and cardio-metabolic risk factors. The Special Turku Coronary Risk Factor Intervention Project. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. 2017. DOI: 10.1177/2047487317720286 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28727955