The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is recommending that every child between the ages of 9 and 11 be screened for cholesterol and then screened again between the ages of 17 and 21. Is this good news, is this testing necessary, and should your child be tested? This is good news for parents that have children that are obese or had high cholesterol themselves at a young age. Why? Because the testing will now be covered by most health insurance plans since the recommendations come from the AAP. However, the bad news is how much unnecessary testing will be performed and what will be the increase in statin drugs prescribed to children?
Should your child be tested? If your child is normal weight, eats a healthy diet, exercises regularly, and there is no history of high cholesterol in your family then the test is probably a waste of money. In this case, we are adding to the ever increasing health care costs unnecessarily. If your child is obese, does not exercise, and there is a history of high cholesterol in your family, then you should definitely have your child tested. The gray area is every child in between these two scenarios. If your child is overweight (but not obese) and there is no history of high cholesterol in your family, then maybe your child would probably due well with an improvement in diet and some exercise. Parents will have to weigh the risks of testing versus not testing based on their children's individual risk factors.
What's the risks of testing? Say you get your child tested and it turns out he/she has high cholesterol. Now you have another decision to make. Should your child go on statin drugs? If your doctor recommends statin drugs for your child without recommending lifestyle changes, then you need to ask your child's pediatrician two things. Is it absolutely necessary for your child to take the statin drug, ie. is his/her life at risk in the near future without the drugs? Can he/she recommend lifestyle changes (diet and exercise) instead of drugs? If your child's pediatrician does not recommend lifestyle changes for your child and insists on the drugs alone, then find another doctor because he/she is either ignorant of nutrition and preventative medicine, owns stock in the pharmaceutical company that is manufacturing the drug, or is plain lazy or stupid. Go to an alternative health practitioner such as a naturopath or a doctor with alternative medicine training.
There has been no long-term testing of statin drugs on children. Like all prescription drugs, statin drugs have serious risks and side affects (including muscle and liver damage) on adults so it is safe to assume that the risks are higher for children. Instead of teaching our children to eat healthy and exercise, we should give them another pill? Along with Prozac and ADD medication, many children will now be taking statin drugs to lower cholesterol. Prescription drugs are dangerous to adults (over 100,000 people die every year due to prescription drugs) so lets keep making our children lab rats for Big Pharma so they can further increase their profits. We're currently experimenting on our children with vaccines (especially HPV and hepatitis B), ADD meds, and anti-depressants. What's one more drug? The answer is one more drug too many.
So, what lifestyle changes should your child make to lower cholesterol? If your child is not moving, get them moving at least 5 times per week for at least half an hour. Start with walking outside or on a treadmill. Make it fun for them. Biking, playing tennis, and soccer are all good exercises. Improve your child's (and your) diet by doing the following:
- Eliminate soft drinks or reduce to one per week as a treat.
- Eliminate trans fats or hydrogenated oils. Read labels carefully.
- Eliminate red meats including beef, pork, and lamb. Chicken breasts and eggs are fine. Although eggs have cholesterol, the lecithin in the eggs break down the cholesterol. Make sure the eggs are organic as they have the highest amount of lecithin and no added hormones.
- Increase the amount of fruits and vegetables in their diet to at least 6 per day. The easiest way to do this is by making soups. Click on the Recipes page above to find some great healthy soup recipes.
- Eliminate cheese except for fresh grated Parmesan cheese (organic or Trader Joe's or Tillamook brands if you can't afford organic as these have no added hormones) over pastas or soups.
- Replace white flour products with whole grain products for pasta and breads.
- Add a good multi-vitamin with mineral supplement made with whole foods such as the brand Alive. Do not use the supplement as a replacement for eating healthy.
Note: Before starting any exercise or diet program, get the approval of your primary health practitioner.
Controversy Over Cholesterol Testing for Children