Teach Your Children Well about Fats


Teaching children from a young age to eat healthy fats can have lifelong health benefits according to a new study published in the American Heart Association's journal Circulation in August, 2007.

The study focused on over one thousand children in Finland who were followed from the age of 7 months through age 14. The researchers found that children who were taught to focus on the healthy fats found in fish, nuts, seeds, and plant oils had slightly lower cholesterol levels compared to children who ate an unrestricted diet by the time they reached the age of 14.

Dr. Art Labovitz, cardiology director at Saint Louis University School of Medicine pointed out that even a small decrease in cholesterol levels can have a big influence over the course of your child's life. "If you study large numbers of people, the small increments result in a significant change in heart attacks and cardiac deaths," said Dr. Art Labovitz.

Dr. Harri Niinikoski, lead author of the study done at the University of Turku in Finland, said children begin forming their eating and lifestyle habits in childhood. "We think that this lifestyle change can be started early," he said.

Dr. Sarah Blumenschein, a pediatric cardiologist with the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, said the study shows that early intervention is the key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. "The earlier you intervene, the more likely you are going to be successful," she said.

The key is to teach your children, starting as young as possible, to appreciate the healthy fats found in fish, nuts, seeds, and plant oils. By eating a little less meat and avoiding the saturated fats and trans fats which are in most processed foods, fast foods and junk foods - your children will lower their total fat intake and enjoy more of the benefits that healthy fats have to offer. As your children grow into their teens and begin eating more meals away from home, their healthy habits will guide them towards healthier food choices when unsupervised.

We encourage parents everywhere to read the nutrition information on the foods that their children eat. The healthy fats are listed as unsaturated fats, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. The unhealthy fats are listed as saturated fats, partially hydrogenated oils, and trans fats.