/publications/issue/2003/2003-09/2003-09-7402

Cholesterol and Kids' Eating Habits

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    Young children who eat a lot of fast food may face health consequences that persist into adulthood, the results of a new study suggest. Researchers at Columbia University collected information on 448 children enrolled in New York Head Start preschool programs. The children also were part of the Healthy Start program, a food service intervention and health education effort.

    Between 1995 and 1997, the researchers measured the children?s cholesterol levels when they enrolled in preschool at ages 3 to 4. After 5 years, the investigators remeasured the children?s cholesterol and compared the levels with the baseline measurement. They discovered that the children who had the highest cholesterol levels in preschool tended to have high levels up until age 8.

    Cholesterol, however, is a condition that can be controlled through proper diet and exercise. Experts suggest that small steps such as substituting skim milk for whole milk and eliminating fast food can help preschool children reduce their cholesterol and prevent future chronic disease.