Nutritional monitoring in early childhood may detect unhealthy diet quality and prevent later health risks in children with congenital heart disease.

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Background

We have previously found that infants with complex congenital heart disease (CHD) experience growth failure despite high‐energy dietary supplementation. This is a follow‐up and comparison with healthy controls at 9 years of age regarding body composition and macronutrient intake, especially in relationship to the diet provided during infancy.

Methods

Anthropometric changes in 10 children with CHD at 12 months and at 4 and 9 years of age were analysed as Z‐scores. To assess body composition and food intake at 9 years of age, a dual‐energy X‐ray absorptiometry scan and a 3‐day food diary were completed and compared with age‐ and gender‐matched controls using Wilcoxon’s signed‐rank test for matched pairs.

Results

Growth changes from 12 months to 9 years, converted to Z‐scores for weight for height and height for age, were significantly different within the group of children with complex CHD, although no growth differences were seen in comparison with healthy controls at 9 years of age. However, the children with CHD had statistically higher abdominal fat mass index and higher daily intake of fat, particularly from saturated fatty acid in g kg−1compared to controls.

Conclusions

At 9 years of age, children with complex CHD with growth failure and high fat intake in infancy have normalised growth but increased abdominal fat mass and higher intake of saturated fatty acid compared to their peers. Nutritional monitoring in early childhood may detect unhealthy diet quality and prevent later health risks in this group.

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