Behavior of 3-year old children in a prospective randomized trial of reduced saturated fat and cholesterol diet since infancy: the STRIP baby project

Int J Behav Med. 1997;4(4):310-22. doi: 10.1207/s15327558ijbm0404_4.


Interventions aimed at decreased exposure of children to known atherosclerosis risk factors may have untoward behavioral side effects. We examined how children's behavior or parent's perception of the behavior of the children at 3 years of age was influenced by the intervention in a prospective randomized trial that began in infancy and effectively decreased serum cholesterol concentration. This Special Turku coronary Risk factor Intervention Project for babies (STRIP) began when the infant was 7 months old. Half of 1,062 children received individualized dietary counseling at 1 to 3-month intervals during the first 2 years of age and then half-yearly; the other half had an unrestricted diet. At 3 years of age a standardized questionnaire of the child's behavior was sent to 791 families (76% returned the questionnaire). At the onset of the trial the sociodemographic data of the families and serum lipid values of the intervention and control children were similar. Later, mean serum cholesterol values of the intervention children remained constantly at a level 6% to 10% below the values of the control children. At 3 years of age the parental perceptions of the child's behavior suggested minimal differences between the intervention and control children. The intervention children were slightly less jealous and more active and creative but showed slightly more negative signs of behavior (bed-wetting, problems in falling asleep, fears) than the controls. We conclude that long-term, individualized dietary and lifestyle intervention that begins in infancy slightly influences children's behavior or parent's recognition of the behavior of the children at the age of 3 years.