August 8, 2012
Researchers Find Significant Decrease In Childhood Cholesterol
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
The cholesterol levels are showing some improvement among U.S. children and adolescents, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Researchers studied 16,000 children and adolescents, and found that there has been a decrease in average total cholesterol levels over the past 2 decades.
The process of atherosclerosis starts at childhood, and having lower cholesterol levels could ultimately reduce heart disease in adults.
Despite the growing fear of obesity in the last 20 years, experts believe that the drop in cholesterol could be due to the drop in trans fats.
The artery-clogging ingredient has been removed or reduce in many food processes, such as french fries and doughnuts.
Although the study did not link the reasons for the decline, Dr. Brian Kit of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the theory makes sense.
The research also showed that children's average overall cholesterol levels declined slightly.
Having a higher cholesterol level in children isn't an immediate threat for them, but those who have the problem often grow into adults with a high risk of heart disease.
During the study, the team found that 1 in 12 children ages 6 through 19 had high cholesterol, which showed about a 28% decline to the previous periods.
In children a cholesterol level of 200 is considered high, and the authors found that the average level fell from 165 to 160.
The study was the first in 20 years to show a decline in children's cholesterol levels. In the 1960s, kids' cholesterol levels dropped, mostly because people were probably eating less fat.
The researchers in the latest study detected modest improvements in children's levels of good cholesterol as well. This could be due to the declines in teen smoking and childhood exposure to secondhand smoke, the researchers believe.
Cholesterol levels in adults have been declining as well at a total of about 27% in the last decade. This decline may be due to the cholesterol-lowering drugs that have come out on the market though.
California became the first state to adapt laws to ban trans fat from restaurant food in 2010. The move followed New York City's same move to ban the cholesterol building substance in 2008.
Although the study shows a success in dropping the amount of trans fats in food, the percentage of obese children in the U.S. is still at 17%.
"We may have a small effect in the right direction from lower cholesterol, but I'm worried it will be overwhelmed by the earlier onset of obesity in younger and younger children," Dr. Sarah de Ferranti, director of preventive cardiology at Boston Children's Hospital, wrote in an editorial accompanying the study. "I'm still pretty worried about how many kids are going to wind up patients of adult cardiologists."