In my blog this past week, we have been focused on children’s health – specifically how to get more veggies into our kids. So it’s timely that the results of a major study of almost 9,000 children have hit the headlines this week.
Children need to maintain a healthy diet to protect their adult heart. The way each child’s heart develops goes a long way to determining their health for the rest of their life. New research, published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, outlines the American Heart Association’s new findings on the long-lasting health effects of a child’s diet.
“Our findings indicate that, in general, children start with pretty good blood pressure,” the study’s lead author Dr. Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, a professor and chair of preventive medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, said in a press release. “But if they have a horrible diet, it will drive a worsening body mass index (BMI) and cholesterol levels. The better we can equip our children to make healthy choices, the more cardiovascular health will be preserved into adulthood. And those who preserve their heart health into middle age live much longer and are much healthier while they live.”
Researchers found most of us start out with a heart fit for a lifetime of activity, but it is in childhood that a heart’s health makes a turning point that will affect the person throughout adulthood. The team studied 8,961 children they examined between the ages of 2 to 11, looking at body mass index, diet, total cholesterol, and blood pressure, which represents four out of the seven components that determine one’s heart health.
In terms of their diet, less than 1% ate an “ideal, healthy diet”; fewer than 10 percent ate the recommended amount of fruit and vegetable, fish, and whole grains each day, while 90 percent of them ate more sodium and 50 percent ate more calories from sugar-sweetened beverages than recommended by the AHA. About 40 percent of children had moderate to poor cholesterol levels, and 30 percent of the children were obese or overweight (which isn’t far off from the general American children population).
We know from other studies that children as young as 12 years old show the beginning stages of hardening of the arteries.
“We really need better surveillance data, especially in children,” Lloyd-Jones said. “Information on physical activity, blood glucose, and smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke are not available for younger children. Without knowing how much physical activity a child is doing, and therefore how many calories are needed, we can’t scale the diet metrics to a child’s needs. So we used the adult metrics, but understand that it would be difficult for a 5-year-old to take in as many fruits and vegetables as an adult. The bottom line is that we need even better data, but what we do see is that we are losing an awful lot of our intrinsic cardiovascular health very early in life, which sets us up to be unhealthy adults.”
Experts recommend we eat 7-13 servings for fruit and vegetables daily. Did you know that the 13 is recommended for an active (not athletic) young male, and the 7 is for a 4 year old girl? So, children NEED to eat plenty of produce for health, especially to set them up for life-long heart health.
Juice Plus+ (in capsule and chewable forms) is proven to Bridge the Gap – what could be more important or valuable for the children in your life? We even offer Juice Plus+ FREE for children and students (even full time college students) through our Children’s Health Study.