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A Diet for Kids that Promotes Bone Growth, Not Fat

Posted Jun 09 2010 10:27am

Dark-green vegetables, such as the broccoli above, and deep-yellow vegetables are part of a diet that can promote bone growth while attenuating fat accumulation in children.

“Eat your dark-green and deep-yellow veggies and limit fried foods” is the message for parents who are interested in promoting bone growth, not fat, in their children according to findings of a study published online June 2, 2010 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.  The study collected data on a total of 325 children (ages 3.8-7.8 years) over a 4 year study period during which measures of body weight, body composition, dietary patterns, physical activity levels, and time spent watching television and playing outdoors were assessed.  The researchers found that those children who consumed diets that were higher in dark-green and deep-yellow vegetables and lower in fried foods had higher bone mass and lower fat mass than those children whose diets lacked these characteristics.

Some interesting findings came out of the study.  The researchers found that even when total caloric intake was the same, a higher consumption of fried foods was associated with a greater accrual of fat mass.  The investigators speculate that hormonal shifts which favor fat growth, as opposed to lean mass development, may be a factor; but, they note that more research is needed.

The findings of the study also indicated that a high consumption of processed meats combined with the consumption of dark-green and deep-yellow vegetables was related to the development of greater bone mass.  They believe this increase is linked to protein which, according to data from previous studies, has been shown to play a role in enhancing bone mass in adults.  And, in this particular cohort of children, processed meats were a major source of protein in their diets.  However, the investigators stress that they do not advocate processed meats to be a mainstay in children’s diets due to the high sodium and saturated fat contents of these products.  The researchers believe that the role of dark-green and deep-yellow vegetable consumption has in promoting greater bone mass is related to the presence of alkalizing minerals, such as potassium, in these foods.

The investigators conclude that their findings have great implications because it is the study is the first of which, to their knowledge, to show that a certain combination of foods can promote bone mass while attenuating fat accumulation in children.  Many parents are aware of the health risks that children now-a-days are facing at increasing rates as a result of a poor diet.  Obesity and osteoporosis are two conditions in which their origins may be rooted in childhood dietary practices.  The challenge for parents is to provide their children with healthy eating habits that promote the growth of bone while reducing the risk for accruing high amounts of body fat.  There is limited information available to parents and caretakers as to what constitutes a diet that can achieve both of these goals.  The findings of the current study show promise that diets can be manipulated to optimize growth and development in children.

Suggested Dark-green and Deep-yellow Vegetables to Serve:

  • Spinach
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Sweet potatoes

Does your child have a favorite dark-green or deep-yellow vegetable?  How do you prepare it?  Share with us, we want to know!

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