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Health & Parenting

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Low-Fat Diets Safe for Children

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"The intake of trans fatty acids by the STRIP children in this study is low in international comparisons," write the authors. "Possible sources of trans fatty acids include fried foods, milk fat, meat, snacks, and vegetable oil-based products such as cheese and ice cream. Fried foods are used in Finland markedly less often than in the United States and are uncommon in the diets of 3-year-old children."

Richard Deckelbaum, MD, professor of pediatrics and head of the Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia University in New York, wrote an editorial accompanying the paper. According to Deckelbaum, the consumption of trans fatty acids among children in the U.S. is probably quite similar to that in Finland. "We need more data on this, but it is unlikely that American children are consuming more trans fatty acids when they make the switch from saturated to unsaturated fats," he tells WebMD. "There's been a lot of emphasis in this country on reducing consumption of trans fatty acids."

In 1998, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued the following recommendations regarding fat and cholesterol intake in children: "No restriction of fat or cholesterol is recommended for infants <2 years, when rapid growth and development require high energy intakes. After 2 years of age, children and adolescents should gradually adopt a diet that, by ~5 years of age, contains total fat of <30% of total calories, saturated fatty acids <10% of total calories, and dietary cholesterol of 300 mg per day."

"The results of the STRIP study are encouraging and suggest that there is no need to change current U.S. dietary recommendations regarding fat intake in children older than 2 years," Deckelbaum says. "Instead of devoting resources to making small changes in the diets of our children, we believe the emphasis should be placed on increasing energy expenditure and consuming fewer total calories."

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