Children Cholesterol Levels Drop, Weight Stays The Same

By Amir Khan on August 8, 2012 10:11 AM EDT

Children
Over the past decade, children's cholesterol levels have dropped (Photo: Creative Commons)

Over the past decade, children's cholesterol levels have dropped, according to a new study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. However, despite the drop, the childhood obesity rate stayed the same.

So how is that possible? Researchers said that even though children aren't eating healthier or exercising more, they are consuming far less trans fats.

"That's my leading theory," Dr. Sarah de Ferranti, director of preventive cardiology at Boston Children's Hospital, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study, told Fox News.        

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Trans fats are a kind of unsaturated fat that are generated during food production The generation of these fats requires heat found in commercial kitchens and cannot be made in a typical household kitchen and science has showed that consumption of trans fats increases the risk of heart disease. 

Researchers looked at more than 16,000 children and found that over the last decade, children's cholesterol levels dropped from an average of 165 to an average of 160. In children, 200 is considered too high.

New York City banned the use of trans fats in 2008, and Marion Nestle, a New York University professor of nutrition, food studies and public health, told Fox News that it's clear the ban's effects are measurable.

"I love the idea that reduced use of hydrogenated trans fats might be responsible," she said. "If so - and as usual it's clear that more research is needed - it would mean that public health measures like the trans fat ban in New York City are actually doing enough good to be measurable."

Despite the drop in cholesterol, many children are still obese.

More than 12.5 million American children ages 2 through 19 are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the number of obese children has tripled since 1980. Health care costs related to childhood obesity totaled $3 billion in 2009, according to a study published in Nature.

In an effort to curb childhood obesity, the USDA introduced the "MyPlate" program, the current nutrition guide, which replaced the Food Pyramid on June 2, 2011 after 19 years. The MyPlate guide emphasizes fruits and vegetable, much like Michelle Obama's school lunch guidelines. Grains and proteins each make up a quarter. A glass of milk is off to the side, and desserts are no longer present.

"Parents don't have the time to measure out exactly three ounces of chicken or to look up how much rice or broccoli is in a serving," Michelle Obama said when unveiling the program last summer. "But we do have time to take a look at our kids' plates. And as long as they're eating proper portions, as long as half of their meal is fruits and vegetables alongside their lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy, then we're good. It's as simple as that."

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