The Special Turku Coronary Risk Factor Intervention Project (STRIP) of the University of Turku, Finland, examines the benefits of promoting cardiovascular health by dietary counseling from infancy to early adulthood. Altogether 1,116 children and their families from Turku participated in the study starting when the children were 7 months of age.
Half of the children were randomly assigned to a group that received dietary counseling promoting a heart-healthy diet according to the nutritional recommendations. Other half were assigned to the control group who received only the basic health education given at Finnish maternity and child health clinics and school health care. The regular counseling that started in infancy ended when the participants turned 20.
The research shows that regular dietary counseling starting in infancy has positive impact on the quality of fat in the diet, as well as on the serum cholesterol level, insulin sensitivity, and blood pressure. In addition, the clustering of adverse cardiovascular health markers is less common is the group that participated in the dietary counseling than in the control group."
Katja Pahkala, Assistant Professor and vice principal investigator, University of Turku
Follow-up study investigated whether benefits were sustained after counseling ended
After the dietary counseling aiming at better cardiovascular health ended, the participants were invited to a follow-up study at the age of 26. In 2015-2018, 551 people participated in the follow-up.
- The aim of the study was to investigate whether the persons who participated in the dietary counseling continued to have a more heart-healthy diet and a lower serum cholesterol level than the control group, says Pahkala.
Better cardiovascular health due to counseling
The first results of the follow-up study have now been published demonstrating that the diets of the people in the intervention group continue to be more heart-healthy. In addition, sustained beneficial effects are seen in the serum total and LDL serum cholesterol levels, which are still lower in the intervention than in the control group.
Furthermore, the insulin sensitivity of the persons who participated in the counseling was also better than in the control group.
- As a whole, the results support the idea that counseling on a heart-healthy diet starting in childhood has a positive impact on cardiovascular health, which is sustained after discontinuation of the active counseling, sums Pahkala.
Pahkala, K., et al. (2020) Effects of 20-year infancy-onset dietary counselling on cardiometabolic risk factors in the Special Turku Coronary Risk Factor Intervention Project (STRIP): 6-year post-intervention follow-up. The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health. doi.org/10.1016/S2352-4642(20)30059-6.