Does your 8-year-old need cholesterol drugs?

by Tara Kimura, CBCNews.ca

Exercise, counselling and cholesterol-absorption inhibitors are on the prescription pad for children as young as eight, according to new guidelines released by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The group suggests adopting an aggressive approach to treating obese children who have high levels of low-density lipoprotein and high blood pressure, in order to stave off serious heart problems later on in life.

In the U.S., about 32 per cent of children were overweight and 16 per cent obese, according to 2008 statistics released by the U.S. Centers of Disease Control. According to Health Canada, obesity rates have spiked over the past three decades. In 2004, 18 per cent of children and adolescents were overweight and eight per cent were obese.

"If we are more aggressive about this in childhood, I think we can have an impact on what happens later in life ... and avoid some of these heart attacks and strokes in adulthood," Dr. Stephen Daniels, who serves on the AAP's nutrition committee, told the Associated Press, which also noted he has worked as a consultant to Abbot Laboratories and Merck & Co. but not in a capacity involving cholesterol drugs.

The AAP's list of drugs for children include the following:

  • Bile acid-binding resins.
  • Niacin.
  • Statins.
  • Cholesterol-absorption inhibitors.
  • Fibrates.

The Academy says these drugs are largely safe for children, but they also note the medications may involve side effects including gastrointestinal problems, flushing — a sensation involving tingling of the skin, glucose intolerance and in rare instances rhabdomyolsis — a disorder that involves the breakdown of muscle cells. Cholesterol-Absorption Inhibitors have also not yet been tested extensively in trials involving children.

The AAP also suggests using low-fat milk for overweight children over the age of one — overturning previous advice that suggested saturated fats in higher-fat milk aids with brain development. Parents are also encouraged to stick with a low-fat diet for children over the age of two.

Are you a caregiver? How do you ensure that your child's weight is healthy? Would you consider giving an at-risk child cholesterol drugs?