The Role of Dietary Fat in Child Nutrition and Development: Summary of an ASNA Workshop

John A. Milner, Richard G. Allison

The role of dietary fat in the growth, development and long-term health of children was explored from metabolic, genetic, dietary and behavioral perspectives at a workshop held September 17–18, 1997, at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, Bethesda, MD. The workshop focused on metabolic, genetic, behavioral and food intake studies that might be useful in evaluating the effects of level and type of fat in the diets of children on their risks of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD). Participants sought to identify evidence dealing with the following: 1) current intake and utilization of lipids in children, 2) factors affecting that intake, and 3) the consequences of that intake on the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis.

… Canada has parted ways with the United States on the issue of fat intake by children. Canadian dietary guidelines state: “From the age of two until the end of linear growth, there should be a transition from the high-fat diet of infancy to a diet that includes no 30% of energy as fat, and no 10% of energy as saturated fat” (Joint Working Group of the Canadian Paediatric Society and Health Canada 1993). This recommendation was based on the judgment that providing energy and nutrients to ensure adequate growth and development is the more important consideration in the nutrition of children. The reduction of fat in children’s diets has been shown also to reduce the intake of energy and several nutrients including calcium, iron, zinc and B-complex vitamins. Furthermore, benefit from reduced-fat diets in children was not established.

… Lipids are an essential component of a child’s diet. They provide EFA, food energy and enhance absorption of certain nutrients. Both the (n-6) (linoleic acid) and (n-3) (linolenic acid) fatty acids are essential components of human diets in low quantities.

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