Mediterranean Diet: Is It Good For Kids, Too?
Scientists have been documenting the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet for adults. Recently, they have started to investigate the potential benefits of this diet when it comes to children, as well.
The diet is easy to follow, and it mostly involves fruits, vegetables, unrefined grains, fish, and oil. At the same time, the diet allows just skim or low-fat dairy products, and it is linked with better memory function.
Mediterranean Diet Adapted For Children
However, when it comes to kids, the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation is that children under the age of two should consume whole milk.
"Infants triple their birth weight by one year and quadruple their birth weight by two years. During this period, the baby's brain and nervous system are making amazing gains in size and complexity. Because the brain and nervous system are largely composed of fat tissue, it is reasoned that the baby should have a higher fat diet during this period of time," according to the Healthy Children Organization.
Additionally, the diet also includes nuts, but the academy believes that these products represent a high-risk choking hazard and it recommends using them carefully in the diet of children who are younger than four. Adults are encouraged to drink small amounts of wine, which is also part of the diet. Being illegal until the age of 21, the beverage doesn't make the subject of the recommendation for children. Experts in nutrition, however, believe that the Mediterranean diet is generally healthy for kids.
"There is no reason why a child could not thrive on a Mediterranean dietary pattern," noted Rachel Johnson, a professor of nutrition and pediatrics at the University of Vermont.
The Mediterranean diet consists of fewer meats and carbohydrates compared to the typical American diet. This diet originates from people who live in Italy, Spain, and other Mediterranean countries who have had this dietary habit for centuries.
Mediterranean Diet Research On Children And Adolescents
According to a small study conducted on obese children in 2014, this dietary style has also been linked to a significant drop in the body mass index, as well as in the fat mass and glucose in children who suffer from obesity.
"With respect to diet composition, the Mediterranean-style diet group exhibited a significant increase in the consumption of dietary fiber, proteins, omega 9 fatty acids, zinc, selenium, vitamin E, and flavonoids, furthermore, they consumed fewer saturated fatty acids," noted the research.
Another study, published in 2017, suggests that children with low adherence to the Mediterranean diet are more prone to developing ADHD.
"Although these cross-sectional associations do not establish causality, they raise the question of whether low adherence to a Mediterranean diet might play a role in ADHD development. Our data support the notion that not only "specific nutrients" but also the "whole diet" should be considered in ADHD," noted the research.
As the percentage of children who suffer from obesity has more than tripled since the 1970s, one in five school-aged children is obese, according to data from the CDC. In this context, as the Mediterranean diet recommended when it comes to its cholesterole-lowering function, which could also help children who are obese.