Dietary Fats and Atherosclerosis From Childhood to Adulthood

Pediatrics. 2020 Apr;145(4):e20192786. doi: 10.1542/peds.2019-2786. Epub 2020 Mar 24.


Background: The association of dietary fat distribution with markers of subclinical atherosclerosis during early life is unknown. We examined whether success in achieving the main target of an infancy-onset dietary intervention based on the distribution of dietary fat was associated with aortic and carotid intima-media thickness (IMT) and distensibility from childhood to young adulthood.

Methods: In the prospective randomized controlled Special Turku Coronary Risk Factor Intervention Project trial, personalized dietary counseling was given biannually to healthy children from infancy to young adulthood. The counseling was based on Nordic Nutrition Recommendations, with the main aim of improving the distribution of dietary fat in children's diets. IMT and distensibility of the abdominal aorta and common carotid artery were measured repeatedly at ages 11 (n = 439), 13 (n = 499), 15 (n = 506), 17 (n = 477), and 19 years (n = 429). The targeted distribution of dietary fat was defined as a ratio of saturated fatty acids to monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids of <1:2 and as an intake of saturated fatty acids of <10% of energy intake. Participants who met ≥1 of these 2 criteria were defined to achieve the main intervention target.

Results: Individuals who achieved the main intervention target had lower aortic IMT (age- and sex-adjusted mean difference 10.4 µm; 95% confidence interval: 0.3 to 20.5 µm) and better aortic distensibility (0.13% per 10 mm Hg; 95% confidence interval: 0.00% to 0.26% per10 mm Hg) compared with their peers who did not meet the target.

Conclusions: Achieving the main target of an infancy-onset dietary intervention, reflecting dietary guidelines, was favorably associated with aortic IMT and distensibility during the early life course. These data support the recommendation of favoring unsaturated fat to enhance arterial health.

Trial registration: NCT00223600.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Aorta, Thoracic / diagnostic imaging
  • Atherosclerosis / epidemiology
  • Atherosclerosis / prevention & control*
  • Carotid Arteries / diagnostic imaging
  • Carotid Intima-Media Thickness
  • Child
  • Counseling
  • Diet, Fat-Restricted / methods*
  • Dietary Fats / pharmacology*
  • Disease Progression
  • Energy Intake / physiology*
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Young Adult


  • Dietary Fats

Associated data