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January 2020

Prev Med. 1992 Jan; 21(1): 33-52.

Does a reduced fat diet cause retardation in child growth?

Kaplan RM, Toshima MT.

Department of Community and Family Medicine, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla 92093-0622.

BACKGROUND. A diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol is strongly recommended by the American Heart Association and the National Cholesterol Education Program as a way to prevent coronary heart disease. In addition, the National Cancer Institute has suggested that dietary fat restriction may also prevent the development of some cancers. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics reviewed the same evidence in relation to children and concluded that that major dietary changes recommended for adults should not be prescribed for children. METHODS. In this article, we review the evidence for the detrimental consequences associated with dietary fat restriction for children. Evidence from studies on secular trends, migration, and vegetarian communities suggests minor effects of dietary fat restriction upon growth. In addition, there is some evidence indicating that children who are placed on severe dietary restriction during growth periods may experience growth stunting. Virtually all of the published studies have serious methodological limitations. CONCLUSION. We conclude that dietary fat restriction may have some small, but measurable, effects upon growth.

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