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Fat metabolism and childhood obesity: cholesterol and other fats

Posted Nov 04 2009 10:01pm

You receive some news at your child's doctor regarding their health --  the levels of different fats in their blood were not normal.  What does this mean?  Perhaps the testing was done as part of their annual physical examination or maybe you were already worried about their weight?  So, let's talk a bit about what these tests are and what they all mean...

  • Total Cholesterol  -- The most common abnormal fat found in the blood...  should be less then 200 (mg/dL) and ideally, in children, below 170.  It is thought of as being carried in the blood in two forms of lipoproteins, LDL and HDL :
  1. "BAD" cholesterol - LDL  -- Low density lipoprotein carries most of the cholesterol in the blood.  Ideally should be less than 100.  Although commonly it is the one that receives the bad rap, it is essential to the body's functioning correctly; however, high levels of it are what is risky and gets accumulated in the arteries.
  2. "GOOD" cholesterol - HDL  -- High density lipoprotein carries more protein than fat and cholesterol and the cholesterol that it does carry , it returns to the liver.  You want high levels of this one as higher levels in blood help to remove cholesterol from the arteries having a protective factor against heart disease, stroke, and the like (more than 40).  How to increase its levels? Some are just born lucky while for others, the answer is simple... Exercise!
  3. Ratio HDL/LDL  --  This tells you how your  ratio of good : bad cholesterol  is.  A goal or at least 0.3 is good with a goal of 0.4 is the best.
  • Triglycerides  -- Ideally should be less than 150.  Most fat is stored in this form and it does travel the blood in this fashion as well.  What can cause this one to go up?  Yes, a high fat diet, of course; also, some birth control pills and genetics (you were just wired this way).
** If either the cholesterol, LDL, or Triglycerides are high, there is an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure.  Yes, even in children.  This is one of the reasons the childhood obesity epidemic is so serious -- children are now showing signs of developing once-thought-of adult-only diseases.  Heart disease and diabetes are two of these.
What can you do to help your child?
  • Encourage them to  exercise,  help them choose an activity that they would enjoy, you lead by example and exercise on your own or even better yet, with them  as a family!
  • Eating less total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol in your and your child's diet.   Tips for low fat living.
  • Supplements of good fats such as omega-3s found in fish, walnuts, and flax seeds help to diminish the levels of these potentially dangerous high levels of fats
  • Visit a dietician or nutritionist -- the can provide invaluable suggestions to provide guidance through the maze of many food options these days.
Making positive changes will make a world of difference and decrease the level of these potentially dangerous fats in the blood to the normal range and maximize total body health for you and your child or teen!

Picture by Alan Shearer, PhotoXpress

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