Cholesterol screening for two year olds in the USA

April 23, 2009


Often in health matters we follow the USA, but this is one case where I sincerely hope we don’t. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is recommending cholesterol screening for children as young as two if there are weight issues or a family history of heart attacks or high cholesterol.

That might sound like a good health preventive, except that the response if high cholesterol is found is to recommend statin drugs, not dietary changes. Statins work by blocking the action of a certain enzyme in the liver which is needed to make cholesterol. Proponents say there is growing evidence that the first signs of heart disease show up in childhood – which is true – but their claim that cholesterol-lowering drugs, called statins, may be their best hope of lowering their risk of early heart attack is much more controversial.

Dr. Jatinder Bhatia, a member of the AAP nutrition committee, has said that “The risk of giving statins at a lower age is less than the benefit you’re going to get out of it”. A statement that is seriously undermined when he went on to say that there is not “a whole lot” of data on pediatric use of cholesterol-lowering drugs. So how on earth can he recommend it foThe use of statins in adults is currently under debate, so why on earth promote a drug that has been shown to actually cause heart problems in healthy subjects? Last year, US researchers at the University of Illinois examined the effects of the statin drug Lipitor on subjects with no history of heart problems. After taking the drug for three to six months, some subjects showed deterioration in at least one marker for heart function, and a smaller number were found to have deterioration in three different heart function markers. Natural Alternatives|:

Statins have been heavily promoted to reduce cholesterol, but there are plenty of healthy alternatives instead. CoQ10, artichoke leaf, red yeast rice and sugar cane are all being used to reduce cholesterol and if you have a history of heart disease in your family, or are concerned about your cholesterol levels – or those of your children – then these are some other things you can try:

* Follow a low-glycaemic diet (low processed carbohydrates), which lowers cholesterol

* Eat foods containing high levels of beta-sitosterol, found in most plants, especially soybeans, as they can reduce cholesterol by at least 10 per cent

* Take omega-3 fatty-acid supplements, preferably with vitamin B6

* Eat a high-fibre diet based on vegetables, fruits and nuts and oat bran, apple pectin and psyllium are especially helpful

* Try blue-green algae supplements; they contain large amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids which may reduce cholesterol

* Garlic lowers cholesterol so cook frequently with it


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