Fiber consumption is known to improve cholesterol profiles, blood sugar levels and blood pressure in adults. Fiber intake may offer similar benefits to adolescents and school-aged children, as it has been associated with lower total serum cholesterol levels and lower body fat percentages as early as age 9. The cardiometabolic effects of fiber intake during early childhood and infancy are unknown.

Because small metabolic changes during childhood increase the risk for diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease later in life, it is important to explore what factors influence cardiometabolic health in young children. In a study published in Nutrients (2016), van Gijssel and colleagues evaluated the association between dietary fiber intake during infancy and cardiometabolic risk during childhood.

The analysis relied on data from 2,032 children participating in the Generation R Study, a population-based prospective cohort study in the Netherlands. Dietary fiber intake was calculated from food-frequency questionnaires collected at age 1 (mean age, 12.9 months). The primary outcome was a cardiometabolic risk factor score, calculated at age 6 (mean age, 5.9 years). The cardiometabolic risk factor score was based on body fat percentage, HDL-cholesterol, triglyceride concentrations, insulin levels, diastolic blood pressure and systolic blood pressure.

The average dietary fiber intake at age 1 for the cohort was 15g/day (range, 3-36 g/day), with approximately half of participants achieving the Dutch recommended intake of 15g/day for 1-3 year-old children. In covariate-adjusted models, a 1g/day higher energy-adjusted dietary fiber intake was associated with a 0.022 standard deviation lower cardiometabolic risk factor score. This association was not explained by differences in energy intake and was primarily driven by higher HDL-C and lower triglycerides. The association was mainly explained by fiber intake from fruits, vegetables and potatoes, but not from cereals.

The effect size in this study was modest, but even small variations in cardiometabolic risk factors during childhood may influence health status during adulthood. Results of this large, population-based study suggest that intake of fruits, vegetables and potatoes during infancy may beneficially affect cardiometabolic health in school-aged children.


Reference

van Gijssel RM, Braun KV, Kiefte-de Jong JC, Jaddoe VW, Franco OH, Voortman T. Associations between Dietary Fiber Intake in Infancy and Cardiometabolic Health at School Age: The Generation R Study. Nutrients. 2016;8(9).