The seeds of premature coronary heart disease are often sown in childhood and it is the developing arteries of children which are the most susceptible. Paediatricians and all who work with them have the earliest and most promising opportunities for prevention. Coronary protection can be added to the potential advantages of breast feeding and to ensure appropriate fatty acid balance throughout weaning. It is reasonable to accept the strong consensus of opinion on diet reflected in the reports of the eighteen national committees. They are: to reduce total fat intake to 30-35% of the energy, to restrict consumption of saturated fat, cholesterol, sugar, and salt, to increase unrefined carbohydrate and polyunsaturated fat, and to maintain a P/S balance of 1.0-1.5:1. Food is the fundamental coronary risk factor, but others may add insult to injury. Smoking, hypertension, obesity, lack of exercise, and stress, each of which is related to behaviour, may start in childhood. Smoking doubles the overall risk CHD and increases it ten times in males under 45 years old. Good habits, including food preferences and eating patterns learned early, are those most likely to be continued. School meals require and should match revised nutritional education. The co-operation of the food industry is essential and can be anticipated, but it requires a clear lead by paediatricians. The nutritional advice should come from the medical profession. Every contact with children and their parents provides an opportunity for enquiry and giving advice.
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