DALLAS (AP) - Fewer than 1 percent of American teens are likely
to need cholesterol drugs, says a new study that offers some
reassuring news on the childhood obesity front.
Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued
eyebrow-raising new guidelines: Doctors were urged to consider
cholesterol drugs for more kids, even as young as 8, if they had
high levels of "bad cholesterol," or LDL, along with other health
problems like obesity and high blood pressure.
The academy didn't address how many children might fall into
that category. Now, a new study published online Monday in the
American Heart Association's journal Circulation helps allay
concerns that "many, many" children might need to be on
cholesterol drugs, said Dr. Stephen Daniels, lead author of the
"The concern was I think, because there's an increasing level
in obesity, that it would lead to higher and higher cholesterol
levels. They don't seem to be going up," he said.
The new pediatrics guidance was based on growing evidence that
damage leading to heart disease begins early in life. At the same
time, recent research has shown that cholesterol-fighting drugs are
generally safe for children.
For the new study, researchers looked at data from about 10,000
children who took part in a national government health survey from
1999 to 2006. Of those, about 2,700 in the 12-to-17 group had LDL
levels measured. About 5 percent to 7 percent of these youth had
Then the researchers checked those numbers against the pediatric
academy guidelines, advising other factors that should be weighed
in recommending medication. About 0.8 percent fit the profile of
those needing treatment with cholesterol-lowering drugs to ward off
future heart problems. Based on 25 million Americans in that age
group, the findings translate to about 200,000 young people.
"I think it provides some perspective on the issue," said lead
study author Dr. Earl Ford, medical officer in the U.S. Public
Ford said that he'd noticed that after the academy guidelines
came out last July, one thing missing from the debate was how many
children might be affected.
"I think a lot of people thought large numbers of children were
probably going to be put on medications for long periods of time,"
When total cholesterol levels - which include both LDL and
"good" cholesterol, HDL - were measured for all ages, 6-17,
researchers found that roughly 10 percent had levels that were too
The study doesn't provide specifics for one of the more
disturbing aspects of the new pediatrics guidelines: that some
children as young as 8 might need cholesterol-fighting pills. LDL
readings for children under age 12 weren't available.
However, Ford believes the results from the older group probably
apply to the younger children as well.
"This just confirms that it's a conservative set of
recommendations," said Daniels, pediatrician-in-chief at
Children's Hospital in Denver.
Cardiologist Dr. William Scott, a pediatrics professor at
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, said that unless a
child has a genetic predisposition to high cholesterol, regular
exercise and an appropriate diet will help keep cholesterol in
"You really are empowered by your diet and activity," said
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