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J Am Coll Nutr. 2004 Apr;23(2):117-23.

Cardiovascular risk reduction in preschool children: the "Healthy Start" project.

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Columbia University, Institute of Human Nutrition and Department of Pediatrics, New York, New York 10032, USA.



To evaluate the impact of a multicomponent cardiovascular health intervention ("Healthy Start") which included a food service modification in a largely minority Head Start preschool population. The primary outcome measure was the change in serum cholesterol from the beginning to the end of the school year.


Nine Head Start centers in Upstate N.Y. were assigned to either food service modification or control conditions. In addition, half of the centers assigned to the food service modification received supplemental nutrition education (FS/NU--food service modification/nutritional education), while the remaining centers were provided with supplemental safety education materials (FS--food service modification only). The control preschool centers (CON) also received supplemental safety educational curricula for children but their food services remained unchanged. Children had serum cholesterol, as well as height and weight measured at the beginning and end of the school year. A generalized linear univariate procedure was used with percent change in total serum cholesterol as the outcome variable and intervention group as the primary independent variable.


There was a significant decrease in total serum cholesterol among preschool children in food service intervention groups, (FS/NU and FS), compared to Controls (-6.0 versus -0.4 mg/dL). In addition to the significant difference in group means, children with elevated cholesterol at baseline were significantly more likely to have a cholesterol level in the normal range (<170 mg/dL) at follow-up if they attended a preschool in the food service modification group. There was a 30% reduction in risk of elevated cholesterol in the latter compared to controls. Participation in the dietary intervention did not affect short-term growth.


A preschool heart health intervention, "Healthy Start," designed to reduce the total and saturated fat content of snacks and meals to recommended levels was effective in reducing serum cholesterol in the study population as a whole and specifically children 'at risk'; i.e., those with initial elevated serum cholesterol.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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