DOES NOT PRODUCE ADVERSE PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECTS
J. V. Lavigne, Ph.D., S. Gidding, M.D., C. Weil, Ph.D., V. J. Stevens, Ph.D.,
C. Ewart, Ph.D., K. M. Brown, Ph.D.,
M. Evans, M.S., and T. K. von Almen, Ph.D.
Previous studies have raised concerns about the potentially
harmful effects of cholesterol-lowering diets on children's psychological
well-being. However, a new study of 663 8- to10-year-old children with
elevated cholesterol levels shows no adverse psychological effects after
three years on such a diet.
The Dietary Intervention Study in Children (DISC) looked at the effect and
safety of a diet that is lower in total fat, saturated fatty acids and
cholesterol than the typical American child's diet. Essential fatty acids
are an important part of brain tissue, and researchers have raised concern
that diets low in essential fatty acids may adversely affect cognitive
development and learning in humans.
The children in the study were randomly assigned to either an intervention
or a usual-care group. The intervention group included individual and group
counseling sessions to assist families in adopting a diet that contained 28%
or less of calories from total fat and dietary cholesterol intake of less
than 75mg/1,000 kcal. The parents of the children in the usual care group
were told that their child had a high level of blood cholesterol and were
given informational pamphlets available to the public on heart-healthy
After three years on the diet, the children in the intervention group had
lowered their low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels but had not
suffered any adverse effects in terms of academic functioning, psychological
symptoms or family functioning. The study's authors say this is important
because the diet the intervention group followed is recommended for children
with a family history of coronary disease.
Children in the study generally came from families with well-educated
parents, were average to above average academically and appeared normal on
measures of psychological adjustment and competence. The authors caution
that "it remains to be determined whether there might be adverse
psychosocial effects with the implementation of the DISC diet in other
socioeconomic groups and with children younger than 8- to 10-years old at
the initiation of the diet." Despite these and other limitations, the
authors say their investigation of the psychological safety of the DISC diet
found no support for concerns about its use in children or young adolescents
with elevated cholesterol levels.
Article: "A Cholesterol-Lowering Diet Does Not Produce Adverse Psychological
Effects in Children: Three-Year Results From the Dietary Intervention Study
in Children," John V. Lavigne, Ph.D., Samuel Gidding, M.D., and Connie Weil,
Ph.D., Children's Memorial Hospital and Northwestern University Medical
Center; Victor J. Stevens, Ph.D., Kaiser Permanente Center for Health
Research; Craig Ewart, Ph.D., Syracuse University; Kathleen M. Brown, Ph.D.,
Maryland Medical Research Institute; Marguerite Evans, M.S., National Heart,
Lung, and Blood Institute; and T. Kristian von Almen, Ph.D., New Orleans
Children's Hospital; Health Psychology, Vol. 18, No. 6.
John V. Lavigne, Ph.D., can be reached at (773) 880-4824.
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