Children's Cholesterol Dropping

Cholesterol levels among American kids steadily decrease

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) The number of U.S. children and teens with elevated cholesterol appears to be steadily declining over the past 20 years, a large study has found.

Elevated cholesterol in children can lead to high cholesterol in adulthood. It also increases the risk of coronary artery disease.

"Engage in regular exercise to keep cholesterol at healthy levels."

Brian K. Kit, MD, MPH, a lead author from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the study confirmed a favorable trend of declining cholesterol among U.S. children and adolescents. Between 2007 and 2010 about 8 percent of youths had elevated total cholesterol, down from 11 percent between 1988 and 1994.

During the study researchers reviewed data regarding 16,116 youths between the ages of 6 and 19 who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) during 3 time periods including, 1988-1994,1999-2002 and 2007-2010.

Investigators tested participants for total cholesterol, total cholesterol without "good" HDL cholesterol and HDL levels. In teens between the ages of 12 and 19, levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol and triglycerides also were measured.

Researchers found that average total cholesterol among children and teens decreased from 165 mg/dL between 1988-1994 to an average of 160 mg/dL between 2007 and 2010. HDL cholesterol increased slightly on average during that same period from 50.5 mg/dL to 52.2 mg/dL.

In addition 22 percent of youths had either low HDL cholesterol or high total cholesterol without HDL in 2007-2010, a decrease from 27.2 percent in 1998-1994.

Total cholesterol was lowered an average of 4.3 mg/dL for boys and 6.5 mg/dL for girls over the study period. Girls and boys who were black or Mexican, or girls who were white also were found to have lower total cholesterol at the conclusion of the study.

In an accompanying editorial, Sarah D. de Ferranti, MD, MPH, from the Harvard Medical School and Boston Children's Hospital, encouraged interventions such as an increased tax on soda, improved access to water in schools and a push for more physical exercise.

"Better understanding is needed about dietary trends and physical activity during childhood, areas that were not explored in the study by Kit et al but could be assessed using NHANES data," she wrote. "However it seems clear that population-wide efforts to alter cardiovascular disease risk have potential to influence health risks."

Dr. Ferranti received grants from the National Institutes of Health/National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and received royalties or payments from agencies including the Pediatric Endocrine Society, the Pediatric Rheumatology Society, UpToDate and Covidien.

The study, funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the National Institutes of Health, was recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 9, 2012
Last Updated:
August 14, 2012