Preventing Cardiovascular Disease: Statement on Childhood Nutrition

11 Apr 2002

A Resource for Health ProfessionalsThe National Heart Alliance is an independent non-governmental organisation, which aims to increase cooperation among organisations involved in the fight against heart disease. The Dental Health Foundation is a participant on the National Heart Alliance, membership of which is grounded in the commonality of risk factors between oral and cardiovascular disease. For the current year the Alliance is focusing on nutrition and launched a position paper on Childhood Nutrition at a conference for health professionals on the 11th April 2002. The following are the summary of recommendations from this position paper. Further information is available from: The Co-ordinator, National Heart Alliance, Irish Heart foundation, 4 Clyde Road, Dublin 4. Phone: 01 - 6685001/ e-mail: or visit their website at www.irishheart.ieSummary of RecommendationsWhere possible, encourage breastfeeding.Recognise the need for a relatively high fat diet in children under 2 years of age. Because milk is the primary nutrient source for children under two years, it should not be considered as a high fat food to be excluded.From 2-5 years, introduce a gradual reduction in total fat intake towards the goal of no more than 35% of energy from fat.In meeting fat and energy requirements in children from 2 years onwards, concentrate on foods that contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and that are low in saturated fats.In meeting calcium requirements, consider milk as a primary calcium source but consider using low-fat milk from between ages 2-5 years.Do not add salt to food.Choose from a wide variety of foodstuffs. To this end, use the food pyramid to communicate this message to the public.Snack foods tend to be high in saturated and trans fats, sodium and sugar. They should be used as an occasional treat and not as part of the staple diet.Encourage regular, family-centred meals.Encourage the development of a public health campaign to improve childhood nutrition to prevent CVD, especially among at-risk groups such as disadvantaged sectors of society and families with a history of premature CVD.Limit television viewing and thereby exposure to food advertising.Encourage play and physical activity.Further research is needed including:On-going surveillance on nutrient intake among Irish childrenResearch into the specific nutrient requirements of selected groups of children such as diabetic children.Studies of the long-term effects of the recommended changes made during childhood.Further studies of genetic influences on CVD and gene-nutrition interaction."