Cholesterol Levels Appear to Be Improving Among U.S. Youths

Trends in serum lipid concentrations are favorable among U.S. children and adolescents, but almost one in 10 have elevated total cholesterol (TC), according to a study published on Aug. 7 in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

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The study aimed to "examine the trends in serum lipid concentrations" and found "among youths aged 6 to 19 years between 1988-1994 and 2007-2010, there was a decrease in mean TC (from 165 mg/dL [95 percent CI, 164-167] to 160 mg/dL [95 percent CI, 158-161]; P < .001) and a decrease in the prevalence of elevated TC (from 11.3 percent [95 percent CI, 9.8 percent – 12.7 percent] to 8.1 percent [95 percent CI, 6.7 percent – 9.5 percent]; P = .002)."

However, adverse lipid profiles continue to be observed among youths, and "in 2007-2010, slightly more than 20 percent of children aged 9-11 years had either a low HDL-C or high non-HDL-C concentration, which according to the most recent cardiovascular health guidelines for children and adolescents, indicates a need for additional clinical evaluation," note the authors.

The cross-sectional analysis was "the first study to measure serum lipid concentrations among youths in a nationally representative sample of the U.S. population" for as long as the National Health and Nutrition Examinations Surveys (NHANES), and looked 16,116 youths during three time periods: 1988-1994, 1999-2002, and 2007-2010.

"Improvements in child and adolescent lipid values over the past two decades are significant and may portend improved cardiovascular disease outcomes for the future, but much work should be done to better understand the changes and to build upon them," notes Sarah D. de Ferranti, MD, MPH, from the Harvard Medical School and Boston Children's Hospital in Boston, Mass., in an editorial comment.

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