Healthy Diet in Young Children

Promotes Bone Mass & Lower

Body Fat Over Time

Emma Hitt, PHD | 4th June 2010

Young children who eat dark green and deep yellow vegetables and limit fried food intake may have healthier fat and bone mass accrual over time than those who do not.

According to Karen S. Wosje, MD, from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Ohio, and colleagues, minimal data are available on dietary components that simultaneously promote low fat mass and high bone mass accrual early in life. “To our knowledge, no studies have examined, as we have, the association of diet composition with both fat and bone mass simultaneously in younger children,” the authors note in their paper, published online June 2 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The researchers sought to identify dietary patterns related to fat and bone mass in 325 children aged 3.8 to 7.8 years. Data were collected from 13 visits during a 4-year period. Bone mass was measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. The researchers also took into account covariables that may have influenced fat and bone mass, including race, sex, height, weight, energy intake, calcium intake, physical activity level measured by accelerometry, and time spent viewing television and playing outdoors.

A diet high in dark green and deep yellow vegetables was related to low fat mass and high bone mass, a high intake of processed meat was related to high bone mass, and a high intake of fried foods was related to high fat mass. The authors suggest that the relationship of processed meat intake to bone mass may be related to protein and state that “although [they] do not advocate processed meats as the primary protein source for children because of the high sodium and saturated-fat contents, in this cohort, processed meats were a significant protein source and should be considered important when studying diet and health in young children because such foods are commonly eaten.”

Dietary pattern scores remained related to fat mass and bone mass after controlling for all covariables (P < .001 – .03).

A limitation of this trial was the use of reduced rank regression. Although useful for identifying dietary patterns that are related to multiple health outcomes, reduced rank regression is data driven and not longitudinal. Therefore, patterns are not necessarily the same year to year and cannot be precisely reproduced in other cohorts.

The authors note that the biological process by which dark green and deep yellow vegetables affect bone mass remains unclear but may be related to their high content of alkalizing minerals such as potassium. Upon concluding, they remark that the data are primarily hypothesis generating but state that “diets of young children that are high in colorful vegetables and low in fried foods may lead to lower fat mass and greater bone accrual in young children.”

The authors have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.