February 17, 2009

Fewer Kids Require Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs

Less than one percent of children aged 12 to 17 are likely to need drug treatments for high cholesterol, according to a new study.

Researchers took data of about 10,000 kids from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 1999 to 2006 for participants aged 6 to 17 years. Of those, about 2,700 in the 12-to-17 group had LDL levels measured. About 5 percent to 7 percent of those youth had elevated LDL.

Additionally, researchers concluded that about 0.8 percent of adolescents between the ages of 12 to 17 were "potentially eligible for pharmacological treatment for elevated concentrations of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol."

Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, is known as the "bad cholesterol," as higher levels of LDL are attributed to heart disease and other health issues.

Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics released its own report, which suggested that doctors should consider prescribing more cholesterol-lowering drugs to obese children at ages as young as 8. Recent research has shown that cholesterol-fighting drugs are generally safe for children.

"I remember that after the guidelines came out, there was a lot of media stories about them," said lead author, Earl Ford of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "It was a big media debate. I just wasn't sure that there were any good data out there, so I thought I would provide insights to that."

"I think it provides some perspective on the issue," Ford told the AP.

"I think a lot of people thought large numbers of children were probably going to be put on medications for long periods of time."

Ford and colleagues released their findings in Monday's online edition of the American Heart Association's journal Circulation.

"The concern was I think, because there's an increasing level in obesity, that it would lead to higher and higher cholesterol levels. They don't seem to be going up," Dr. Stephen Daniels, lead author of the pediatric guidelines, told the AP.

When total cholesterol levels - which include both LDL and "good" cholesterol, HDL - were measured for all ages, 6-17, researchers found that roughly 10 percent had levels that were too high.

Cardiologist Dr. William Scott, a pediatrics professor at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, told the AP that children without a genetic precondition simply need regular exercise and a balanced diet to ward off problems with high cholesterol.

"You really are empowered by your diet and activity," said Scott.


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