March 1995

Problems With the Report of the Expert Panel on Blood Cholesterol Levels in Children and Adolescents

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Laboratory Medicine, Pediatrics, and Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program, School of Medicine, University of California–San Francisco (Dr Newman); the Department of Medicine, Palo Alto Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, Calif (Dr Garber); the Department of Pediatrics, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Md (Dr Holtzman); and the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and Institute for Health Policy Studies, School of Medicine, University of California–San Francisco (Dr Hulley).

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1995;149(3):241-247. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1995.02170150021003

An Expert Panel convened by the National Cholesterol Education Program has recommended selective screening and treatment of children for high blood cholesterol levels, based on family history of cardiovascular disease or high blood cholesterol. This recommendation is problematic for several reasons. First, the recommended diets are likely to cause only a slight decrease in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, the projected benefits of which will be offset by a similar decrease in high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels. Lack of efficacy of the recommended diets could lead to use of more restrictive diets or to cholesterol lowering drugs. Second, even under optimistic assumptions, beneficial effects of cholesterol intervention will be small and delayed for many decades. As a result, childhood cholesterol-lowering efforts will not be cost-effective. Third, the Expert Panel's recommendations do not address important gender differences. Girls have higher average cholesterol levels than boys. They will therefore qualify for more dietary and drug treatment despite their lower age-adjusted risk of heart disease and the lack of association between cholesterol levels and cardiovascular mortality in women. Finally, recent evidence from randomized trials, cohort studies, and animal experiments suggests that cholesterol lowering may have serious adverse effects. This evidence was not discussed in the Expert Panel's report. Given current evidence, any screening and treatment of children for high blood cholesterol levels is, at best, premature.

(Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1995;149:241-247)