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Diet in childhood and adult cardiovascular and all cause mortality: the Boyd Orr cohort
  1. A R Ness1,
  2. M Maynard2,
  3. S Frankel3,
  4. G Davey Smith3,
  5. C Frobisher1,
  6. S D Leary1,
  7. P M Emmett1,
  8. D Gunnell3
  1. 1Unit of Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
  2. 2MRC Social & Public Health Sciences Unit, Glasgow, UK
  3. 3Department of Social Medicine, University of Bristol
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr Andy Ness
    Unit of Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology, 24 Tyndall Avenue, Bristol BS8 1TQ, UK;


Objective: To examine the association between childhood diet and cardiovascular mortality.

Design: Historical cohort study.

Setting: 16 centres in England and Scotland.

Participants: 4028 people (from 1234 families) who took part in Boyd Orr’s survey of family diet and health in Britain between 1937 and 1939 followed up through the National Health Service central register.

Exposures studied: Childhood intake of fruit, vegetables, fish, oily fish, total fat, saturated fat, carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E estimated from household dietary intake.

Main outcome measures: Deaths from all causes and deaths attributed to coronary heart disease and stroke.

Results: Higher childhood intake of vegetables was associated with lower risk of stroke. After controlling for age, sex, energy intake, and a range of socioeconomic and other confounders the rate ratio between the highest and lowest quartiles of intake was 0.40 (95% confidence interval 0.19 to 0.83, p for trend 0.01). Higher intake of fish was associated with higher risk of stroke. The fully adjusted rate ratio between the highest and lowest quartile of fish intake was 2.01 (95% confidence interval 1.09 to 3.69, p for trend 0.01). Intake of any of the foods and constituents considered was not associated with coronary mortality.

Conclusions: Aspects of childhood diet, but not antioxidant intake, may affect adult cardiovascular risk.

  • childhood
  • cardiovascular mortality
  • fish
  • fruit
  • vegetables

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  • Sources of support: Work on the Boyd Orr cohort has been funded by the World Cancer Research Fund, the Medical Research Council, and the British Heart Foundation.