American kids' and teens' cholesterol levels are, on a whole, improving, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
However, one in 10 youths still had high cholesterol between 2007 and 2010, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers found.
Cholesterol levels in childhood are particularly notable because they are often predictors of adult high cholesterol, researchers said. High cholesterol is considered a risk factor for heart disease and heart attacks because it leads to hardened and narrowed arteries, according to the National Institutes of Health.
The new study included 16,116 children and teens between ages 6 and 19, who were part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 1988 and 1994, 1999 and 2002, or 2007 and 2010.
The researchers found that during the 1988 to 1994 and the 2007 to 2010 time periods, the children and teens experienced a decrease in total cholesterol levels and an increase in levels of "good" HDL cholesterol.
The total cholesterol levels decreased from 165 milligrams of cholesterol per deciliter of blood from 1988 to 1994, to 160 milligrams per deciliter between 2007 and 2010, researchers found. MyHealthNewsDaily reported that 200 milligrams of cholesterol per deciliter of blood is considered "high" for kids.
The number of 6- to 19-year-olds with high total cholesterol decreased from 11.3 percent to 8.1 percent between the 1988 to 1994 time range and the 2007 to 2010 time range, researchers also found.
Earlier this year, a Pediatrics study from CDC researchers found that around 22 percent of teens ages 12 to 19 already have, or are bordering on, high "bad" cholesterol levels, HealthDay reported.
"Improvements in child and adolescent lipid values over the past two decades are significant and may portend improved CVD [cardiovascular disease] outcomes for the future, but much work should be done to better understand the changes and to build upon them," Dr. Sarah D. de Ferranti, M.D., M.P.H., of Harvard Medical School and Boston Children's Hospital, wrote in an accompanying editorial.
The Associated Press reported that the recent push to decrease trans fats may have played a part in the overall decrease in cholesterol levels.
"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," Marion Nestyle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, told the Associated Press.
Recently, a government-appointed panel recommended that kids as young as nine should be tested for high cholesterol with blood tests, or earlier if the kids have a family history, the Associated Press reported. But those guidelines have recently been criticized because some members of the panel that devised the guidelines have ties to the industry.