The results of a long-term study by British researchers indicate that children who experience growth spurts as toddlers or as adolescents are more likely to have lower cholesterol levels later in life. Those who become overweight in late adolescence are more likely to have high cholesterol as adults.
The study’s results appear in the March issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
The subject pool consisted of 2,311 men and women who were all born during a single week in March 1946. Subjects’ height and weight was recorded at ages 2, 4, 7, 15, 36, and 53. Researchers obtained blood samples from subjects once they reached age 53; the blood samples were then tested for cholesterol levels.
The taller subjects grew before age 2 and after age 15, the lower their cholesterol levels at age 53. Higher overall cholesterol levels and higher low density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol levels were linked with higher body fat levels at 36 and 53, and with faster weight gain between the ages of 15 and 53.
“Children who grew more slowly in height in the first two years of life had higher total cholesterol levels in adulthood. And those who had a high body mass index in adulthood also had higher levels of total cholesterol,” said Paula Skidmore, a researcher at the School of Medicine, Health Policy and Practice at the University of East Anglia, in Norwich. Skidmore led the research team which conducted the study.
Skidmore also said, “There is a large amount of information publicly available on healthy eating, and further research is needed to investigate the factors that prevent people from eating healthily.”
According to the American Heart Association, high cholesterol levels, or hypercholesterolemia, is a key risk factor for coronary heart disease, a cause of heart attacks. They recommend that people limit average daily cholesterol intake to under 300 milligrams, and that those with heart disease limit cholesterol intake to under 200 milligrams. Reducing saturated fat intake is an effective way to lower cholesterol in the diet.
In addition to lifestyle choices, biology is also an important factor to consider with regard to cholesterol. “This is a very interesting article, suggesting that a gain in height or body mass during one’s youth may affect their cholesterol profile when they are in their 50s,” said Dr. Byron K. Lee, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.
“This is biologically plausible, since we know that hormones and their interaction can have a great effect on both growth and circulating cholesterol levels,” Lee said. “This may mean that even at a very young age, we need to take preventative measures to avoid heart disease many years down the road.”
American Heart Association
March 1, 2007 AHA Scientific Position on cholesterol: http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4488