A few years back, a government panel recommended cholesterol testing for children. Specifically, they stated that all children in the U.S. get screened for high cholesterol by age nine, and younger if they have a family history of heart disease. A debate erupted with critics who felt that this cholesterol testing movement was pushed by drug companies who have the most to gain if more children are put on statin drugs.
This isn’t the first time this issue has reared its head. Several years back, a recommendation called for cholesterol testing of children as early as age 2 and no later than age 10 if they belong to families with a history of high cholesterol or early heart attacks.
It’s not surprising that there’s a focus on cholesterol and children, since many children are currently considered overweight or obese. But aggressive cholesterol screenings and statin drugs for children aren’t the answer! As I’ve written many times before, the body needs cholesterol. It’s not the enemy. In fact, children need cholesterol for normal brain development.
The real answer isn’t medicating kids—but rather, educating both children and their parents about maintaining a healthy lifestyle. We need to encourage children to exercise and not allow them to eat sugar, soda, high-fructose corn syrup, and processed junk food. Those things—not high cholesterol—are what is making them fat, insulin resistant, diabetic, and vulnerable to early heart disease.
Unfortunately, there’s no money to be made in exercise and dietary modifications. There are, however, huge profits to be made in selling drugs that lower cholesterol—which is no doubt driving the movement for testing cholesterol in children.
Plus, if doctors are going to insist on cholesterol testing for children they should do it using real science, not the antiquated lipid tests that measure only total cholesterol, and LDL. They should recommend the new generation of tests that identify the specific subgroups of cholesterol that are genuinely problematic.
Now it’s your turn: What do you think about cholesterol testing for kids?