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Study: Cholesterol Levels Down in US Kids, Obesity Rates Still High


For once there is a bright spot of news about kids and health: For the first time in 20 years the rates of children with high cholesterol have come down.

An intensive national study focusing on more than 16,000 children ages 6-19 found that 8.1 percent of kids and teens had high total cholesterol, down from 11.3 percent in 1988-94. The researchers also found that kids’ levels of artery-clogging triglycerides and “bad” cholesterol, or LDL, dropped, while levels of “good” cholesterol, or HDL, went up.

Overall, the proportion of youngsters with either low HDL or high LDL cholesterol or triglycerides fell from five points to 22 percent in 2007-10.

Plus: The Latest from the AAP on Kids and Cholesterol

And while the study’s findings came as welcome news Tuesday, childhood obesity rates remain at a staggering 17 percent, or about 12.5 million kids ages 2 to 19.

The Centers for Disease Control conducted the study over three periods – 1988-94, 1999-2002 and 2007-10 – and published their findings on the recent dip in cholesterol levels in the Journal of the American Medical Association.  

The study’s authors were unsure as to why the numbers came down between 2007-10 but told HealthDay that the dip in overall cholesterol levels could be linked to a decline in teen smoking and reductions in trans fats in processed and fast foods.  

Plus: Cholesterol Screening Guidelines for Kids

For its part, New York City banned artificial trans fats in restaurant food in 2008. California adopted the first statewide ban in 2010.

"I love the idea that reduced use of hydrogenated trans fats might be responsible" for the new study's results, Marion Nestle, a New York University professor of nutrition, food studies and public health, told the Associated Press. "If so—and as usual it's clear that more research is needed—it would mean that public health measures like the trans fat ban in New York City are actually doing enough good to be measurable."