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Childhood Diet Lower in Fat and Higher in Fiber May Lower Risk for Chronic Disease in Adulthood

Study shows dietary intervention in adolescence benefits glycemic control and blood pressure long-term

Joanne Dorgan, PhD

Joanne Dorgan, PhD

Chevy Chase, MD (October 27, 2011) – A recent study to be published in The Endocrine Society’s December 2011 print issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM) found that a behavioral intervention to lower dietary intake of total fat and saturated fat that also encouraged increased consumption of foods that are good sources of dietary fiber during late childhood and adolescence resulted in significantly lower fasting plasma glucose levels and lower systolic blood pressure when study participants were re-evaluated in young adulthood.

A Western dietary pattern high in total fat and saturated fatty acids and refined grains is associated with an increased risk of the metabolic syndrome, a cluster of metabolic abnormalities that include abdominal obesity, low levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (sometimes considered “good cholesterol”), higher levels of triglycerides and blood glucose, and elevated blood pressure. This study, led by Joanne Dorgan, PhD, of Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, PA, evaluated the long-term effects of a dietary intervention to reduce fat and increase fiber intake during childhood on components of the metabolic syndrome in young adult women.

“This research is important because it suggests that modest reductions in total fat and saturated fat intake and increased consumption of dietary fiber during childhood and adolescence may have beneficial effects later in life by decreasing risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease,” said Dorgan.

In this study, researchers evaluated 230 women between the ages of 25 and 29 years, who nine years before the current study participated in the Dietary Intervention Study in Children (DISC). DISC was a randomized controlled clinical trial of a reduced-fat dietary intervention that strived to limit fat intake to 28 percent of calories and increase dietary fiber intake by encouraging consumption of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. The current study was conducted among females who had participated in the DISC trial to determine the longer-term effects of the DISC intervention.

Researchers measured body composition of study participants using whole body dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scans. Blood pressure was measured using automatic blood pressure monitors and blood samples were analyzed to assess levels of plasma glucose, cholesterol and triglycerides.

“Few participants in our follow-up study met the criteria for metabolic syndrome, however the intervention group had statistically significant lower mean systolic blood pressure and fasting plasma glucose levels compared to the control group,” said Dorgan. “Significant differences at the follow-up visit, but not earlier, suggest that adolescent diet may have long-term effects on age-related changes in blood pressure and glycemic control that begin to become apparent in young adulthood. Longer follow-up of DISC participants is needed to determine if the differences found in this study persist or widen with increasing age.”

Other researchers working on the study include: Lea Liu of Clinical Trials & Surveys Corporation in Owings Mills, MD; Bruce Barton of the University of Massachusetts in Shrewsbury; Snehal Deshmukh of Fox Chase Cancer Center; Linda Snetselaar of the University of Iowa in Iowa City; Linda Van Horn of Northwestern University in Chicago, IL; Victor Stevens of Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, OR; Alan Robson of Children’s Hospital in New Orleans, LA; Norman Lasser of the New Jersey Medical School in Newark; John Himes of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis; John Shepherd of the University of California San Francisco; Ray Pourfarzib of LipoScience Inc. in Raleigh, NC; Kelley Pettee Gabriel of the University of Texas in Austin; Andrea Kriska of the University of Pittsburgh in PA; and Peter Kwiterovich, Jr. of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, MD.

The article, “Adolescent Diet and Metabolic Syndrome in Young Women: Results of the Dietary Intervention Study in Children (DISC) Follow-Up Study,” appears in the December 2011 issue of JCEM.

About the Endocrine Society

Founded in 1916, The Endocrine Society is the world’s oldest, largest and most active organization devoted to research on hormones and the clinical practice of endocrinology.  Today, The Endocrine Society’s membership consists of over 14,000 scientists, physicians, educators, nurses and students in more than 100 countries. Society members represent all basic, applied and clinical interests in endocrinology. The Endocrine Society is based in Chevy Chase, Maryland. To learn more about the Society and the field of endocrinology, visit our site at www.endo-society.org.


Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

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