The roots of chronic adult disease such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity are based off of a person’s childhood developments. American children and adolescents have higher blood cholesterol levels and higher intakes of saturated fatty acids and cholesterol compared to other countries. Studies have shown that early coronary atherosclerosis begins in childhood and adolescence. Prevention of cardiovascular disease in children older than 2 years of age are the same for adults:
- No more than 30% of calories from fat (10% or less from saturated fat, up to 10% from unsaturated fat and 10-15% from monounsaturated fat)
- No more than 300 mg of cholesterol per day
- Cholesterol screening is recommended for children with family risk factors
The American Heart Association have recommendations including:
- A diet low in saturated fat and trans-fatty acids, increased fish intake, whole grains, vegetables and fruits, and limited juice and sweetened beverages
- 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity daily
- No more than 35% of calories from fat
Osteoporosis prevention begins early by maximizing calcium retention and bone density during childhood and adolescence which is a time when bones are growing rapidly and are most sensitive to diet and exercise. Studies show that in order to reach the maximum calcium balance during puberty children may need to consume more than the recommended amount. Because food consumption surveys show that children are drinking more soft drinks and non-citrus juices and less milk, education is needed to encourage young people to consume the appropriate amount of calcium from food sources.
Education about fiber and disease prevention has been focused mainly on adults and only limited information is available on the intake of fiber for children. Fiber is needed for health and normal laxation in children. Most children are consuming less than the DRI, studies have shown. Education is needed to help increase fiber intake in children.
A decreased level of physical activity in children has also been a problem for decades and is seen as a big contributor toward obesity in children. School physical education programs have declined and generally decreases with age. Regular physical activity improves strength and endurance, enhances self-esteem, and reduces anxiety and stress. It’s been said that exercising for at least 60 minutes a day is recommended for children.