High Cholesterol in Children: Causes and How to Treat It

High cholesterol in children doesn't always indicate a problem. Find out about the causes and treatment in today's article.
High Cholesterol in Children: Causes and How to Treat It

Last update: 20 May, 2021

For many years high cholesterol was considered a serious health problem, both in children and adults. However, we now know that, in most cases, it’s not a cause for concern. If the individual maintains certain lifestyle habits and a healthy weight situation, it shouldn’t cause any lasting damage.

We also know that the role of diet in modulating cholesterol is limited. It’s true that there are foods and nutrients that can cause cholesterol levels to vary. Just the same, the impact won’t be excessive. However, if the individual combines an adequate diet with physical activity, they’ll obtain better results.

Junk food can cause high cholesterol.


Causes of high cholesterol

As mentioned, high cholesterol doesn’t always mean problems. An increase in these particles can be caused by genetic causes, by certain diet components, or by being overweight. However, it’s important to distinguish which type of lipoproteins are the most elevated.

In the case of an increase in HDL, there’s no need to worry too much. If the increase corresponds to LDL, then we’ll have to be more careful. The most frequent investigations suggest that any cardiovascular risk could derive from an increase in oxidized VLDL particles. These are found within the LDL pool.

For this reason, rather than aiming to reduce cholesterol as such, we should ensure that inflammation and oxidation processes are modulated to prevent the formation of atheromatous plaques.

How to influence high cholesterol in children?

It’s clear that, regardless of how concerning it may or may not be to have cholesterol above normal levels, there are a series of dietary guidelines that can improve the lipid profile. However, as we mentioned, the impact of these guidelines won’t be really significant unless we combine them with regular physical exercise.

The first thing to be clear about is that consuming saturated fat or dietary cholesterol doesn’t increase plasma lipoprotein levels. However, a regular intake of omega-3 fatty acids does increase HDL and decrease total cholesterol. A study in Clinical Cardiology provides evidence to this effect.

To ensure an adequate intake of these lipids, it’s essential to include oily fish, crude oils, and nuts in your regular diet. However, you should avoid subjecting these foods to aggressive cooking processes. Otherwise, the fats will transform into trans fats, which will have a negative impact on the lipid profile and cardiovascular risk.

Foods to avoid to reduce high cholesterol in children

In addition to favoring the intake of omega-3 fatty acids, there are certain products you should avoid in order to reduce high cholesterol in children. As mentioned above, trans-type lipids are harmful in this regard. We find them mainly in ultra-processed industrial products, fried, and battered foods.

When cooking food, it’s always preferable to use less aggressive methods such as grilling, baking, steaming, or cooking in water. You should also avoid grilling with charcoal, as it produces compounds that are toxic for the body.

Salmon, nuts, eggs, cheese, berries, and avocado.

At the same time, you need to stay away from the consumption of simple sugars as much as possible.
These elements are capable of increasing the energetic value of the diet and of having an impact on metabolic health, promoting excess weight. Obesity can have a negative impact on plasma cholesterol, one of the main factors in lipid profile alterations.

High cholesterol in children isn’t always a problem

Before worrying about high cholesterol in children, take a look at the child’s body composition, diet, and lifestyle habits. If we’re talking about a child who’s slim, physically active, and includes fish and vegetables in their diet on a regular basis, there shouldn’t be anything to worry about.

However, when we’re talking about a subject with high exposure to ultra-processed foods, who’s also sedentary and doesn’t eat vegetables, the medium-term risk increases. However, the solution isn’t medication in most cases, but a change of habits.

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  • Rhoads JP, Major AS. How Oxidized Low-Density Lipoprotein Activates Inflammatory Responses. Crit Rev Immunol. 2018;38(4):333-342. doi: 10.1615/CritRevImmunol.2018026483. PMID: 30806246; PMCID: PMC6527110.
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