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The cholesterol levels in U.S. children has improved in the past two decades as makers of crackers, cookies, crackers and other snacks responded to public concern that trans-fats used in the products may be harmful to health.
The presence of elevated total cholesterol dropped to 8.1% for children from 6 to 19 in 2007 to 2010 compared with 11% from 1988 to 1994, according to a study today in the Journal of the American Medical Association. While no cause analysis was conducted, lower fat intake and more exercise may have contributed to the improvement, states Brian Kit, a researcher at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the study’s lead author.
A key contribution may have occurred as food companies rework products to reduce or eliminate trans-fat, leading to dietary improvements that didn’t require consumers to make conscious choices, notes Sarah de Ferranti, author of an editorial accompanying the study. McDonald’s Corp., the world’s largest restaurant chain, and Starbucks Corp. are among companies that have reduced the use of artificial trans-fat, which is linked with high cholesterol and heart disease. “There is an increased awareness about the harms in trans-fats, so manufacturers have removed them,” de Ferranti says. She directs the preventive cardiology clinic at Boston Children’s Hospital. “It’s a lot harder for us to make the decision to eat healthy or to exercise.
“The next data steps will be important,” she adds. “We will still have to think about screening for cholesterol in children.”