TUESDAY, Aug. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Cholesterol levels among U.S. kids have improved in recent decades, but almost one in 10 still has high total cholesterol, which endangers their heart health, U.S. health officials report in a new study.
The study included more than 16,000 children and teenagers aged 6 to 19 years who took part in the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys during three periods -- 1988-1994, 1999-2002 and 2007-2010. Overall, average total cholesterol levels decreased slightly, but more than 8 percent had elevated total cholesterol in 2007-2010.
Although researchers can't say precisely what led to the overall improvement, several lifestyle factors likely play a role. But experts also caution that many children remain at risk for heart disease.
"We know that dietary intake of saturated fat and trans fats and exposure to second-hand smoke are related to blood cholesterol, so changes aimed at limiting these may have contributed to the changes that we observed," said study author Dr. Brian Kit, a pediatrician and epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Hyattsville, Md.
As a result of the current U.S. childhood obesity epidemic, conditions formerly seen only in adults, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol, are increasingly observed in children. But the decline in cholesterol held even in the face of obesity increases noted during the study, Kit said.
The study, published Aug. 8 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that 22 percent of children aged 9 to 11 years had either low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the "good" cholesterol, or high non-HDL cholesterol concentrations in 2007-2010 -- down from about 27 percent two decades earlier. The latter refers to the difference between the total cholesterol concentration and the good or HDL ch
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