Kids on Statins, the Future of Healthcare

It's crazy to think kids could ever be on statins, but it seems that this is the direction the future of healthcare is going. If you're an adult with a small child, this post is directed to you. Should you have high cholesterol or heart disease, there's a very good chance that your child will be screened for high cholesterol, and possibly mediated, at some point in the near future. New guidelines, endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics,  state all children between the ages of two and ten be screened for high cholesterol, and all children eight years of age and older with a high level of LDL (bad) cholesterol be considered for cholesterol lowering medications (statins) if a family heart history is a concern.

To highlight the obvious, obesity is an undeniable problem in the United States, and certainly in Chicago. According to the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children (CLOCC), obesity rates of Chicago children ages two to 17  are significantly higher than the national average. In fact, about 22% of Chicago children ages three to seven are obese, in comparison to the national average of 10%.

Administering statins to children is sad, but may become a reality due to the ever-growing size of our population.

Where's the problem? Yes, lack of activity certainly plays a role, but so does food. Unfortunately, it's becoming more and more difficult to distinguish between what's healthy and what's not.
Food Marketing
Too much of a bad thing with too little control is damning the health of our children. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, approximately $280 million dollars is spend on "Healthy Food Marketing." This figure pales in comparison to the $1.7 billion dollars in "Unhealthy Food Marketing." Who do you think is going to win?

Poor Ingredients
Trans Fats
It's now universally accepted that trans fats are bad for our health, specifically our heart. Trans fats lower HDL (good) cholesterol and raise LDL (bad) cholesterol. That said, they're allowed in our foods. Depending of the amount of trans fats per serving, it may or may not be stated on the package as "trans fat." Labels aside, the fact that it's still acceptable to add them to foods is simply bewildering. Look in any package that's attractive to a child and there is a very good chance you'll find trans fats (listed as a partially hydrogenated oil).

High Fructose Corn Syrup
There is no doubt that the advocates of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) are plentiful and well-funded. Regardless of how the message "high fructose corn syrup is just like sugar" is spun, our bodies interpret it differently. HFCS makes up just shy of 50% of the sweetener added to food, including everything from breads to beverages  - many products with healthy claims on the packaging. Consumption of HFCS increased by greater than 1000%  between 1970 and 1990. Fructose isn't "just like sugar." In fact, fructose doesn't let our body know it's full, so we have a tendency to keep eating. Specifically, fructose doesn't stimulate insulin secretion from the pancreas - the main driver that ultimately makes its way to the brain to say "stop eating." Thus, studies have shown a myriad of conditions can occur if HFCS is consumed too much, including insulin resistance (can lead to diabetes), high triglyceride levels and the obvious, weight gain.

Who's Helping
A majority of the responsibility in getting kids healthier will ultimately fall into the lap of parents and caregivers who are competing against slick marketing targeted to both them and their children. There are also an abundance of great groups that do their best to get the message out about eating healthier and exercising,  but if the louder government voices, such as the Food and Drug Administration, don't intervene, the problem will only continue to escalate.

What do you think?

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Traci is a nationally recognized health and fitness expert who has been featured on The TODAY Show and Dr. Oz. Traci is available for corporate speaking events and wellness coaching, as well as private training. Contact Traci here.


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