The Bad News About Prevalence, the Good News About Treatments -- But Pay Attention to the Details

Linda Brookes, MSc


February 14, 2005

In This Article

Childhood Hypertension Is Increasing -- But a Diet Rich in Fruit, Vegetables, and Dairy May Be Beneficial for Early Childhood Blood Pressure

An analysis of data from the Framingham Children's Study suggests that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and dairy products may have beneficial effects on blood pressure during childhood. In the January issue of Epidemiology ,[10] University of Boston researchers led by Lynn L. Moore, MPH, DSc, used follow-up data from 95 children who were aged 3.0 to 5.9 years at study entry in 1986. The children and their parents were assessed at annual clinic visits by means of interviews, questionnaires, and measurements of blood pressure and blood lipids. Diet was assessed by means of replicate sets of 3-day food diaries during each year. Data collected through 12 years of age were analyzed.

After adjustment for baseline blood pressures, mean activity level, and mean daily intakes of magnesium and sodium, children who consumed more fruits and vegetables (4 or more servings per day) or more dairy products (2 or more servings per day) during the preschool years were found to have smaller yearly increases in SBP throughout childhood. Dairy intake had a slightly stronger protective effect on blood pressure than high fruit and vegetable intake. Children who had high consumption of both fruits and vegetables and dairy products had the smallest mean annual increases in SBP and DBP (1.72 and 0.25 mm Hg, respectively), whereas children who had low intake of those with low fruit and vegetable and dairy intake had the largest increase (3.03 and 0.66 mm Hg). By the time of early adolescence, children with higher preschool intakes of fruits and vegetables and dairy products had a mean SBP of 106 mm Hg, whereas those with lower intakes in both food groups had a mean SBP of 113 mm Hg.

Children with higher intakes of fruits and vegetables alone or dairy alone had intermediate levels of SBP in adolescence. The effects on DBP were weaker.

This study is the first to demonstrate the blood pressure effects of diets characterized by high intakes of fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy products in children. The results are consistent with those of the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) study,[11] which showed the beneficial effects of high intakes of fruits, vegetables, and dairy products on blood pressure in adults. Although the mechanism of action by which fruits and vegetables lower blood pressure is unknown, the Boston researchers acknowledge that part of the effect may be due to differences in body size, since children who eat a healthy diet tend to be leaner. Controlling for body mass index (BMI) led to a slight attenuation of the blood pressure effects.


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