Prather Pediatric and Allergy Center - Ask Doctor Brent

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Title: Diet and Nutrition in Children and Cholesterol Control

Category: Child Care


In the past few years the American Academy of Pediatrics has taken a more active role in encouraging early cholesterol control in children. This is still a controversial topic, however, and some experts feel that too much emphasis is placed on cholesterol in children. In general, pediatricians country wide believe that high risk children (that is, children of parents with known heart disease) should be at least encouraged to eat smart at a young age and cholesterol levels should be checked from two years on up. If the check at age two or three is about 200 and the child is eating a reasonably balanced diet, then simple follow-up checks every one to two years is reasonable. In an extremely high risk child one whose father, grandfather and great, grandfather have all had heart disease at a young age and who is found to have a high cholesterol (such as 250 to 300 at the age of two years), then it becomes critical to teach smart eating habits and cholesterol control starting at that young age.

Occasional difficulty occurs in controlling the diet for cholesterol and still getting adequate amounts of calcium and essential fatty acids and other nutrients. A very wise diet is one used by many people in the world and is a starch based diet with lots of bread, rice, potatoes, spaghetti as well as a diet high in vegetables and fruits. This is a diet very low in cholesterol and fat but high in fiber, vitamins and nutritious protein. A reasonable amount of meat and milk products insures more than adequate calcium and protein intake and, by staying with leaner meats and less fatty foods and processed sugar sweet foods, one can better control fat and cholesterol intake. The important thing with cholesterol in high risk children is not to go overboard and make the child paranoid at a young age but to teach a child good smart eating habits from infancy to adulthood.

Dr. Berenson at LSU Medical School in New Orleans has been a pioneer in much of the pediatric cholesterol research. He personally feels that checking cholesterol at age two is appropriate for all children and then monitoring the levels after that. This monitoring planned according to the cholesterol level, the family history, and any other factors which may come into play.

Dr. Berenson and LSU have done an ongoing prospective study in Bogalousa for about twenty years and are now finding that diet controlled at a young age does make a significant impact in later adulthood and is worthwhile in preventing future heart disease.