Testing Kids’ Cholesterol

Children with high blood levels of cholesterol often outgrow the problem, Iowa researchers reported recently in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. They based the finding on a study of more than 2,000 children who were followed up to adulthood. In a related report, UC San Francisco researchers claim that the benefits of childhood cholesterol tests are outweighed by the risks.

Still, not all experts agree on the answer to the question: Should blood cholesterol tests be given routinely to children?

Yes: Dr. Alan Lewis, professor of pediatrics, USC School of Medicine; associate director of cardiology, Childrens Hospital Los Angeles

“Routine screening of children not only identifies children (with high cholesterol) but identifies the family at risk. It is ideal to screen children sometime between the ages of 2 and 11.


“If you identify a child with a family history of high cholesterol, you have also identified a parent. And that parent is perhaps just years away from a heart attack.

“With new, office-based machines, blood doesn’t even have to be sent to a lab. The accuracy of the test is 95 to 98% and the cost is $10 or $15.

“Testing gives the pediatrician an opportunity to talk about a prudent diet, even for those whose cholesterol levels are normal.”

No: Dr. Thomas B. Newman, assistant professor of pediatrics, epidemiology and biostatistics, UC San Francisco School of Medicine; associate director of the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program


“Blood cholesterol tests for children are a complete waste of blood and money. As a rule, children do not need to have their cholesterol checked. One exception: If parents have familial hypercholesterolemia, an inherited condition which leads to super-high cholesterol levels, I would consent to a blood cholesterol check on the child if the parents requested it.

“If you routinely check children’s cholesterol levels, you label those with high cholesterol and make the ones with low cholesterol think they can eat whatever they want.

“There is still a lot of controversy about whether adults should be screened, especially women and men under age 40. Whatever benefits cholesterol tests may have for adults are even more minute and remote for children.”