Kids’ cholesterol down; fewer trans fats cited
By MIKE STOBBE AP Medical Writer August 13, 2012 3:40PM
A government study shows that in the past decade, the proportion of children who have high cholesterol has fallen. The results are surprising, given that the childhood obesity rate didn't budge. | AP Photo/Steven Senne
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For more information on cholesterol, go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website: www.cdc.gov/cholesterol
Updated: September 16, 2012 6:06AM
Finally some good news about cholesterol and kids: A big government study shows that in the past decade, the proportion of children who have high cholesterol has fallen.
The results are surprising, given that the childhood obesity rate didn’t budge.
Some experts think that while most kids may not be eating less or exercising more, they may be getting fewer trans fats. That’s because the artery-clogging ingredient has been removed or reduced in many processed or fried foods.
“That’s my leading theory,” said Dr. Sarah de Ferranti, director of preventive cardiology at Boston Children’s Hospital. She wrote an editorial that accompanies the study.
The study did not look at the reasons for the decline, but its lead author, Dr. Brian Kit of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the theory makes sense.
The research, released online last week by the Journal of the American Medical Association, also showed that children’s average overall cholesterol levels declined slightly.
Kit and his colleagues drew data from an intensive national study that interviews people and does blood-cholesterol tests. They focused on more than 16,000 children and adolescents over three periods — 1988-94, 1999-2002 and 2007-10.
During the most recent period studied, 1 in 12 children ages 6 through 19 had high cholesterol. That was down from 1 in 9 during each of the earlier periods — roughly a 28 percent decline.
The study was the first in almost 20 years to show such a decline.
Trans fats decline
Artificial trans fats are known to decrease good cholesterol and increase bad cholesterol. In 2006, the federal government began requiring that packaged foods list the amount of trans fat per serving, a boon for careful shoppers.
Meanwhile, a push to take trans fats out of foods gained momentum. New York City banned artificial trans fats in restaurant food in 2008. California in 2010 became the first state to adopt such a ban.
This is not the first study to suggest a payoff in trans fat policy efforts. The U.S. Department of Agriculture found that from 2005 to 2010, the average trans fat content in bakery items and other foods declined steeply. A small, preliminary CDC study published earlier this year found significant drops in trans fats in white adults between 2000 and 2009.
Despite the good news, experts remain worried.
Seventeen percent of U.S. children are obese, perhaps because they are still eating lots of carbohydrates and sugar. That, along with little exercise, can lead to diabetes and heart disease.
“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,” de Ferranti said.