- Pregnancy & Childbirth
- Attachment Parenting
- Family Nutrition
- Family Wellness
Why worry about cholesterol in children? Aren't heart disease and stroke diseases of older persons? Wrong! You don't get heart disease all of a sudden, even though the heart attack or stroke may be a surprise. Cardiovascular disease begins slowly, one cholesterol molecule at a time. Consider these facts:
Should children have routine cholesterol testing? Currently, the Committee on Nutrition of the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends:
For school-age children, an acceptable blood cholesterol level would be below 170 milligrams. In a child with a serum cholesterol above this level or with a positive family history for any of the above risk factors, a complete blood lipoprotein panel (i.e., HDL, LDL, total cholesterol, and triglycerides) should be done on blood samples drawn in the morning after a 12-hour fast. (To avoid the discomfort of fasting, do a routine nonfasting blood-cholesterol-level test first. If the result is borderline or high, get the complete profile, which needs to be done after fasting.)
The AAP does not believe that routine cholesterol tests are necessary for every child. Every child over two should be on a low-cholesterol diet anyway, and foods high in cholesterol (for example, a Big Mac contains 103 milligrams, a Whopper contains 90 milligrams, and a Double Whopper with cheese contains 195 milligrams) should be discouraged for many nutritional reasons. The foods that children should eat more of (fruits, vegetables, grains, lowfat dairy, and fish) tend to be already low in cholesterol.
Though it's not healthy to have a cholesterol phobia, the earlier you help your children learn to be cholesterol conscious, the better for their hearts. Eating habits developed in childhood are likely to carry over into adulthood. Children who grow up on a high-fat, high cholesterol diet are likely to continue this fat preference, whereas children who grow up with a healthy diet are more likely to choose healthy foods as adults.
When fast-food establishments boast that their french fries are "cooked in cholesterol-free, 100 percent vegetable oil," they are often referring to hydrogenated vegetable oil. This stuff stands up better to both life on a shelf and the heat of the fryer, but the effect on your blood cholesterol levels is similar to that of lard.
* The cholesterol that is attached to the LDL's is actually the same as the cholesterol that is joined to the HDL's. There are not two different kinds of cholesterol, "good" and "bad." These terms are used to refer to the possibly helpful or harmful effects of the lipoprotein-cholesterol combination.