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Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Nov;72(5 Suppl):1384S-1391S.

Dietary fats and cholesterol in italian infants and children.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, San Paolo Hospital, Milan, Italy.


The fat intake of Italian infants has peculiar characteristics that begin quite early because their mothers' milk has a monounsaturated fat content (45%) at the upper limit of the values found in Europe. Comparison studies in breast-fed and formula-fed infants were conducted to evaluate growth and developmental correlates and differences in fat intakes in the early months of life. Breast-fed infants have higher blood lipid concentrations at 4 mo of age than do formula-fed infants. The addition of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs) and cholesterol to formulas for term infants may affect concentrations of circulating blood lipids as well as the LCPUFA composition of the lipids during the breast-feeding period. The addition of LCPUFAs does not seem to affect the growth rate of formula-fed infants. Although an initial benefit of LCPUFA feeding on eye-hand coordination was observed, this effect was not sustained; by 24 mo, different feeding groups had similar developmental scores. Other peculiarities of the Italian experience are presented, including body weights from infancy to early childhood in 147 children, the nutrient densities of different diets in Italian schoolchildren, and the effects of nutritional education on dietary intakes. The diets of these children were high in animal protein and supplied approximately 30-35% of energy from fats throughout childhood. Both the dietary protein intakes at 1 y of age and parental body mass indexes were associated with 5-y body mass index values. Classroom education may be useful to lower the plasma lipid concentrations in healthy, primary school-age children. It is not known whether this early modification can be maintained and whether it influences the later development of cardiovascular disorders.

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