According to Charles R. Attwood, MD, F.A.A.P., we can immunize our children against leading killers: heart disease, stroke, adult diabetes, hypertension, obesity, constipation and some 50 percent of all cancers.
Dr. Attwood is author of Dr. Attwood's Low Fat Prescription for Kids: A Pediatrician's Program of Preventive Nutrition, a new book endorsed by medical and nutritional experts - including Benjamin Spock, Dean Ornish, T. Colin Campbell, Frank A. Oski, Neal D. Barnard and Suzanna Havala. In the book he states that it is as essential for children to eat a low-fat diet as it is for their parents. Dr. Attwood, who has one of the largest private pediatric practices in the US, based in Crowley, Louisiana, draws on his more than 30 years of experience in preventive nutrition and on numerous studies from around the world, which he cites in his book.
In his work with children on a typical North American diet, Dr. Attwood has seen over and over again that the first signs of coronary heart disease, the fatty deposits in the coronary arteries, begin to appear by age three. By age 12, he finds that, nearly 70 percent of children are affected - and more advanced deposits rapidly appear through the teen years. These early stages of the disease are found in virtually all young adults by the age of 21.
Dr. Attwood joins a growing number of experts in challenging the nutritional guidelines of organizations like the American Heart Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Says Dr. Spock in his foreword to the book, "Dr. Attwood demolishes twelve common myths about the urgency of reducing the swollen amounts of fat in the present American diet - myths that are cherished by many parents (and some physicians and nutritionists)." Chief among these myths: controlling cholesterol and obesity can wait; kids have a natural, inborn "fat taste"; meat is necessary for protein and iron and milk for calcium; low-fat diets lack vitamins and minerals; and low-fat diets retard growth.
"The first signs of coronary heart disease begin to appear by age three"
"Moderation" in America and other Western nations involves eating
high-fat foods. "More extreme measures are needed," Dr. Attwood says,
to prevent diet-related diseases. An overnight transition may work for some
adults - but he believes that changing the fat taste may take up to 12 weeks
and should be done in four stages, beginning with a fat allowance of 30 percent
of calories and ending with an ideal, plant-based diet of 15 percent of calories
derived from total fat. "Beginning a diet is infinitely easier if approached
during early childhood, before fatty deposits have appeared in the coronary
arteries and before a lifelong 'fat habit' is established," he says. Children
are not born with a taste for animal fat but, he shows, it is learned early
in life and frequently becomes a way of life. "A 'low-fat habit,' firmly
established by the age of eight usually lasts a lifetime."
To complete his prescription, Dr. Attwood provides a "Low-Fat Shopping Primer," tips on how to get started at home, and what to do when eating out. The last part of the book, "A Mom's Guide to Happy, Low-Fat Kids," by Victoria Moran (author of Get the Fat Out) offers practical tips and suggested menus for feeding babies, toddlers, school-age kids and under- and over-eager eaters. Child-tested favourite recipes include Banana Pancakes and "Refried" Beans, Peanut Butter-Stretchers, Potato Salad, Chocolate Brownie Cake and Gingerbread Cookies.
Urging parents to act on his program, Dr. Attwood says, "I have implemented these dietary principles with excellent results during the last two decades of my private practice as a board-certified pediatrician...One mother asked, 'What better gift could I give to my child?' "
Reprinted from Seattle EarthSaver, Spring 1995 Vol. 5 Number 2