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Health groups find consensus on fat in diet.

Health groups find consensus on fat in diet

The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) this week urged all Americans, including children aged 2 and older, to eat diets lower in saturated fat and cholesterol.

The report drawn up by NCEP's panel on population strategies is not the first to advocate a heart-healthy diet. The American Heart Association and a report issued last March by the National Academy of Sciences make similar recommendations. But the NCEP advisory marks the first time the medical establishment has reached a consensus on what constitutes a healthy diet for young children.

Claude Lenfant, director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, which administers the NCEP, says the guidelines in the new report go beyond previous recommendations and should resolve public confusion created by last September's publication of Heart Failure (1989, Thomas J. Moore, Random House). The book's author, a journalist, argues that reducing high blood cholesterol does little to ward off heart-disease risk in children, women and the elderly -- a conclusion Lenfant calls misleading. "The overwhelming international consensus among medical researchers is that high blood cholesterol is strongly associated with heart disease," Lenfant says.

Noting that saturated fat raises blood cholesterol and can lead to the development of coronary artery disease, the panel recommends that everyone, including children over 2, limit the calories derived from saturated fat to less than 10 percent of their total caloric intake. The panel's recommended diet derives an average of about 30 percent of its calories from total fat intake and includes less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol per day. Red meat and dairy products rich in butterfat represent the major sources of saturated fat and cholesterol.

The American Academy of Pediatrics joins other major medical associations in supporting the NCEP guidelines, even though it has voiced concerns in the past about feeding children low-fat diets (SN: 10/8/88, p.234). Ronald E. Kleinman of Harvard Medical School in Boston, says a diet with 30 percent of its total calories derived from fat is an appropriate goal for children age 2 or older. But he cautions that parents shouldn't go overboard, because children need 30 percent fat in their diet to grow properly. The NCEP panel and the academy do not advise parents to feed restricted-fat diets to children under age 2.

The report's suggestions could save lives, says panel chairman Richard Carleton of Brown University in Providence, R.I. "Such a population approach should reduce the average blood cholesterol of Americans at least 10 percent and should result in an approximate 20 percent reduction in coronary heart disease," he says.
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Author:Fackelmann, K.A.
Publication:Science News
Date:Mar 3, 1990
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