Dietary counseling from early age leads to better cardiovascular health

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Dietary counseling from infancy leads to better cardiovascular health outcomes in early adulthood, according to a new study published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health.

The study included 1,116 children and their families, with the study beginning when the children were seven months old. For the study, half of the children were randomly assigned to a group that received dietary counselling promoting a heart-healthy diet according to the nutritional recommendations. Other half were assigned to the control group who received only the basic health education given at maternity and child health clinics and school healthcare. The regular counselling that started in infancy ended when the participants turned 20 years old.

After the dietary counselling aiming at better cardiovascular health ended, the participants were invited to a follow-up study at the age of 26. In 2015 through 2018, 551 people participated in the follow-up. The first results of the follow-up study have now been published demonstrating that the diets of the people in the intervention group continue to be more heart healthy. In addition, sustained beneficial effects are seen in the serum total and LDL serum cholesterol levels, which are still lower in the intervention than in the control group. Furthermore, the insulin sensitivity of the persons who participated in the counselling was also better than in the control group.

"The research shows that regular dietary counselling starting in infancy has positive impact on the quality of fat in the diet, as well as on the serum cholesterol level, insulin sensitivity, and blood pressure,” said Katja Pahkala, PhD, principal investigator from the University of Turku, in a statement. “As a whole, the results support the idea that counselling on a heart-healthy diet starting in childhood has a positive impact on cardiovascular health, which is sustained after discontinuation of the active counselling.”