Why Testing for High Cholesterol in Kids Is a Bad Idea ?

I recently had a mom bring her 7 year old daughter into my office, concerned because her cholesterol was high. Huh? Since when are doctors testing for high cholesterol in kids?

Then I got this question from Kelly on Facebook:

Last year, at 5 years old, my daughter’s ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL) was elevated, so we improved our diet even more than it had been. We are now all organic and following all of the healthy trends. My cholesterol is ideal, and my husband’s has lowered with lifestyle modifications. My daughter was retested this year, and while her HDL (good cholesterol) is great, just under 100, and her triglycerides are very low, just 40, her LDL (bad) spiked to 170!!!! Doctors are baffled, we are baffled, and they are sending her to Children’s Hospital for a cardiology appointment.

We currently use organic ghee (new), high quality extra virgin olive oil, and heart healthy red palm oil for cooking. We’ve been leaning more and more to lower-carb living over the past year, focusing on healthy fats and organic and grass fed protein sources. My kids snack mostly on fruit and cut up veggies. We limit sugar and are a GMO-free household. My daughter is also a tall girl with a very healthy weight, and she is pretty active. Any suggestions are welcomed if offered nicely! TIA!

Um, am I the only one that is BAFFLED as to why we are testing cholesterol of a FIVE year old in the first place and then tormenting this poor family who is already doing everything right?

Why doctors are testing for high cholesterol in kids

According to the New England Journal of medicine, the number of overweight children and adolescents between ages 6 and 19 has tripled since 1970 – and along with it the likelihood of these children developing heart disease, diabetes, and other obesity related conditions as they age.

Because of the mounting epidemic of childhood obesity, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now recommends that all all children be screened for high cholesterol  before the age of 11, and children 1 years oldand above be screened if a parent has cholesterol issues or risk factors [trying not to put a row of exclamation points here!].

The new guidelines recommend ways to prevent the development of cardiovascular risk factors and optimize cardiovascular health starting with breastfeeding and emphasizing a diet low in saturated fat starting at age 1 year. The guidelines also encourage protection from tobacco smoke as well as regular physical activity.

Exercise and eliminating tobacco smoke exposure – great! A low fat diet for babies and young kids – meh.

The recommendation was passed along by a panel of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute – and as it turns out, “among [the panel’s] 14 members, only five disclosed no conflicts of interest. Peter Kwiterovich, a physician and lipid researcher at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine who chaired the cholesterol sub-panel, reported having received $150,629 from Pfizer (the maker of the statin Lipitor) last year.

He has also reported having ties to nine different pharmaceutical companies, including the makers of the statins Zocor and Crestor, and a company that develops and licenses cholesterol tests.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m not interested in taking the advice of this guy or his cronies.

High cholesterol in kids (and adults) is not the real problem

According to this article, there haven’t been any new studies showing that screening children saves lives or prevents future heart disease, and there’s no reason to think it will.

It may come as a surprise to read that the popular belief that high cholesterol is the primary cause of heart disease is just wrong. Furthermore, diets high in saturated fat and cholesterol neither cause nor contribute to heart disease whereas so-called “heart healthy” vegetable oils are linked to heart disease, cancer and many other conditions. You can read more about this in this well-documented series of articles, and this well-renowned surgeon’s opinion on what causes heart disease here.

In my humble opinion, there is no good reason to test children (especially those who eat healthy diets like Kelly’s daughter above) for cholesterol.

This fear-based behavior of the medical community is extremely dangerous and may lead down a road of children being subjected to unnecessary dieting and exercise mandates and consumption of toxic low fat foods – not to mention taking ineffective and dangerous medications like statins.

If you’re still worried about cholesterol levels for yourself and your children I highly recommend taking simple measures to live a healthier life: Eat REAL food. Stop eating processed junk. Exercise moderately. Sleep enough and manage your stress.