The American Academy of Pediatrics recently announced new recommendations for giving cholesterol-lowering drugs to children as young as eight years old. They also recommend giving low-fat milk to infants as young as one year old.
The New York Times published several articles on this, first announcing the recommendation the day the academy made it, then describing the backlash of saner doctors and other members of the public against it, and finally editorializing that while they were first "appalled" at the recommendation, after reading the report they were more dismayed at the state of our children's health.
Concerning this frightful state of children's health, the Times reported the following:
"We are in an epidemic," said Dr. Jatinder Bhatia, a member of the academy's nutrition committee who is a professor and chief of neonatology at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta. "The risk of giving statins at a lower age is less than the benefit you're going to get out of it."An epidemic of what? High cholesterol? Not according to the academy's report, which states that cholesterol levels in children declined between 1966 and 1994 and stayed the same between 1994 and 2000.
Dr. Bhatia said that although there was not "a whole lot" of data on pediatric use of cholesterol-lowering drugs, recent research showed that the drugs were generally safe for children.
No, we are in an epidemic of obesity. As the Times reported:
But proponents say there is growing evidence that the first signs of heart disease show up in childhood, and with 30 percent of the nation's children overweight or obese, many doctors fear that a rash of early heart attacks and diabetes is on the horizon as these children grow up.
Is there any evidence that statins lead to weight loss? If there is, I am not aware of it.
The point is immaterial, because the academy doesn't claim to have any evidence for its position in the first place. For example, its report states the following:
Also, data supporting a particular level of childhood cholesterol that predicts risk of adult CVD do not exist, which makes the prospect of a firm evidence-based recommendation for cholesterol screening for children elusive.
And further down:
It is difficult to develop an evidence-based approach for the specific age at which pharmacologic treatment should be implemented. . . . It is not known whether there is an age at which development of the atherosclerotic process is accelerated.
In other words, they don't know what level of cholesterol is risky and at what age it starts posing a risk, but they will nevertheless assume that there is some level that does start to pose a risk at some age and they will thus have to make a guess just what that level and what that age is.
The report discusses evidence that the "metabolic syndrome" and the "recent epidemic of childhood obesity" are tied to the risk of diabetes and heart disease and evidence that even modest weight loss at a level of five to seven percent is sufficient to prevent diabetes. Yet somehow instead of making a recommendation about how to more effectively lose weight the authors derive from this data a much less logical but much more profitable conclusion that 8-year-olds should be put on statins.
As to the recommendation to feed infants low-fat milk, the Times reported the following:
The academy also now recommends giving children low-fat milk after 12 months if a doctor is concerned about future weight problems. Although children need fat for brain development, the group says that because children often consume so much fat, low-fat milk is now appropriate.
This is rather remarkable, because the academy attributed the drop in childhood cholesterol levels to the successes of the anti-fat, anti-cholesterol campaign that began in the 1950s. But now children no longer need milkfat because they are getting plenty of fat. Well which is it? Are they getting more fat now or less fat?
Of course milkfat is also a source of choline, along with liver and egg yolks, which is essential to brain development.
But even this misses the point. Cholesterol is essential to brain development!
One of the first articles I added to my section on the functions of cholesterol was an article entitled "Learning, Your Memory, and Cholesterol." It discusses the evidence uncovered eight years ago that cholesterol is the limiting factor for the formation of synapses, which are the connections between neurons that allow learning and memory to take place.
Lowering brain levels of cholesterol can be detrimental at any age beacause of this, but the consequences for children -- whose brains are still developing at a much more rapid rate -- could be much more dire.
No doubt, most researchers and medical doctors mean well and are honestly trying to help our children. But surely someone in these drug companies must know that cholesterol is necessary for brain development, and that cholesterol-lowering drugs reduce mental performance in adults. Surely they must know that if we raise our next generation of children on statins during the critical periods of brain development, we may raise a whole generation with compromised intelligence.
And if that's the case, are they trying to dumb us down? Sometimes it seems like that's the case.
Article written by Chris Masterjohn
Chris Masterjohn, has a blog blog called “The Daily Lipid”. He writes about fats, cholesterol and health. Chris is pursuing a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cell Biology and is a knowledgeable contemporary writer about cardiovascular health.