Subjects: Behavioral health
More than one is 5 US teenagers has an abnormally high cholesterol level, according to federal health officials who say the new data provides striking evidence that the nation’s epidemic of obesity is threatening an entire generation with increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke, among other things.
To reach these astonishing conclusions, Ashleigh May of the CDC and colleagues analyzed data collected between 1999 and 2006 from a nationally representative sample of 3,125 youths who were between 12 and 19 years old. The data came from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
The scientists found that 20.3% of the subjects had at least one abnormal blood lipid test—either low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or good cholesterol), high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or bad cholesterol), or high levels of triglycerides.
What is more, the kids’ risk of having an abnormal lipid test increased with increasing weight. Thus 14.2% of those whose weight was normal had an abnormal value, but the incidence rose to 22.3% and 42.9% among those who were overweight and obese, respectively.
“This is the future of America,” said Linda Van Horn, a Northwestern University professor told the Washington Post. “These data confirm the seriousness of our obesity epidemic. This is an urgent call for health-care providers and families to take this issue seriously.”
Although previous studies have raised these concerns, this is the first to confirm and quantify the potentially devastating effects of America’s teen obesity epidemic. Other studies had linked the epidemic to high blood pressure, diabetes and arthritis, which had been presumed rare in adolescents.
“This problem is poised to negate all of the advances we’ve made in cardiovascular health,” said Denise Simons-Morton of the NHLBI.
The write-up appears in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.