Here’s a crazy truth – cholesterol levels in American children have dropped over the past 20 years as junk food makers lowered their use of trans fats in foods such as cookies, crackers, and French fries. Crazy!
Between 2007 and 2010, elevated total cholesterol dropped to 8.1 percent for kids ages 6 to 19, down from 11 percent from 1988 to 1994. The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, says that while no cause analysis was conducted, it is suspected that an increase in exercise and lower fat intake are the two main contributing factors.
One of the most notable theories is by Sarah de Ferranti, director of the preventive cardiology clinic at Boston Children’s Hospital. She believes that as food companies such as McDonald’s and Starbucks reduced or eliminated their use of trans fat, Americans began consuming less of it without even making a conscious choice about it. Food companies didn’t really care about this until 2006, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration began requiring companies to disclose trans fat levels on nutrition labels.
Trans fat is a natural ingredient in some meat and dairy products, but most of it is found in processed foods and cooking oils. It improves the taste and shelf life of a lot of of foods, and eating too much of it increases the risk of high cholesterol and heart disease.
So why is it that, despite lower cholesterol levels, obesity is still on the rise? Between 1998 and 2010, childhood obesity increased by 43%, reaching a total of 18%. De Ferranti says that these changes do not seem to be making a dent in this, so over time, the benefits of a diet lower in trans fat may be lost. Until these numbers start to go down, cholesterol screenings will still be an important part of every child’s health routine, and close monitoring of processed foods, sugar, and saturated fat will become even more crucial. It’s never too early to get kids hooked on healthy, natural food choices.
Image CC licensed by EvelynGiggles: French Fries