Cholesterol News for Kids Not as Bad as Doctors Thought

February 18, 2009 11:58 AM
by Lindsey Chapman
Despite recommendations last year that doctors give children as young as 8 cholesterol-lowering drugs, experts now say most teens don’t need them.

Cholesterol Levels Not Increasing

A new study published Monday on the Web site of the American Heart Association journal Circulation may allay previous fears that the obesity epidemic is leading to elevated cholesterol levels in an increasing number of children.

The Associated Press reports that researchers looked at data collected from about 10,000 children during a health survey from 1999 to 2006; 2,700 in the 12-to-17 group had their LDL (“bad” cholesterol) levels measured and 5 to 7 percent of those had elevated LDL levels.

When the researchers looked at those numbers in conjunction with the pediatric academy guidelines, only about 0.8 met the guidelines of needing treatment with cholesterol-lowering drugs.

The news is especially positive in light of strict guidelines released by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) last year. The group urged pediatricians to prescribe the drugs to children as young as 8 to avoid heart problems later in life.

The AAP also recommended that kids as young as 2 and no older than 10 start undergoing regular cholesterol screenings if they have a family history of high cholesterol or heart attacks. Chidren who are obese or have a limited family history were encouraged to do the same.
Because roughly 30 percent of children in the United States are obese, many doctors believe there will be a wave of heart attacks and diabetes as the children grow older.

While the new data seems like good news comparitively, Earl S. Ford, MD, who is lead author of the new study and medical officer in the United States Public Health Service, said “It is a matter of opinion whether one thinks 0.8% is a small or large percentage,” reports WebMD.

He followed by saying that, given the rise in obesity and other risk factors such as smoking and lack of exercise that adolescents are exposed to, “we need to continually assess and monitor the lipid status of children and adolescents.”

The right type of cholesterol can have benefits to the body. Physicians believe HDL cholesterol in particular carries bad cholesterol away from the arteries to the liver, where it is eventually expelled from the body.

Related Topic: Childhood obesity rates

High cholesterol rates in children is particularly worrisome when combined with high obesity rates; roughly 30 percent of the popuation, incuding kids and teens, are obese.

The obesity epidemic has received some good - or at least better - news in recent months, however. Last year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that, after 25 years of worsening, childhood obesity rates had not increased since 1999.

David Ludwig, a pediatric endocrinologist at Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital in Boston, said the study provides a "glimmer of hope."

Still, medical experts worry about such a high obesity rate. Many factors may contribute to the epidemic, including lack of exercise amongst youngsters and even unhealthy school lunches. Studies have found that obesity can be curbed when children eat a healthy school lunch, but last year spiking prices of milk, grain, produce and meat began forcing schools to consider rolling back healthy-food initiatives in favor of less expensive, high-calorie alternatives.

Reference: Obesity and cholesterol resources


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