Background: Dietary fiber has health benefits, but fiber recommendations for children are controversial because fiber may displace energy.
Objective: The objective was to longitudinally evaluate dietary fiber intake in children and to study associations between growth variables, serum cholesterol concentrations, and intakes of fiber, energy, and nutrients.
Design: Altogether, 543 children from a prospective randomized atherosclerosis prevention trial (the Special Turku Coronary Risk factor Intervention Project; STRIP) participated in this study between the ages of 8 mo and 9 y. The intervention children (n = 264) were counseled to replace part of saturated fat with unsaturated fat. Nutrient intakes, weight, height, and serum total, HDL-, and LDL-cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations were analyzed. Children were divided into 3 groups according to mean dietary fiber intake in foods: low (lowest 10%), high (highest 10%), and average (middle 80%) fiber intakes.
Results: Fiber intake associated positively with energy intake and inversely with fat intake. Children with a high fiber intake received more vitamins and minerals than did children in other groups. In longitudinal growth analyses, weights and heights were similar in all 3 fiber intake groups, and fiber intake (g/d) associated positively with weight gain between 8 mo and 2 y. Serum cholesterol concentrations decreased with increasing fiber intakes. Children in the intervention group had a higher fiber intake than did the control children during the entire follow-up period.
Conclusion: Fiber intake did not displace energy or disturb growth between 13 mo and 9 y of age. Serum cholesterol values correlated inversely with fiber intake, which indicated that part of the cholesterol-lowering intervention effect in the STRIP project may have been explained by dietary fiber.