One in five US teens may have abnormal lipid levels.

The Washington Post (1/22, Stein) reports that “one out of every five US teenagers has a cholesterol level that increases the risk of heart disease,” according to a new study published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. For “the study…researchers analyzed data collected from 3,125 youths through the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.” The data indicated that “20.3 percent had abnormal ‘blood lipid’ levels.”

Bloomberg News (1/22, Randall) reports that “obese children were at the highest danger of abnormal levels, with 43 percent testing outside the recommended ranges.” Ashleigh May, an epidemiologist at the CDC’s division of heart disease and stroke prevention, said, “Parents should inquire about whether their child is eligible for this lipid screening, especially if their child is overweight or obese.”

MedPage Today (1/21, Gever) reported that “an unsigned commentary by MMWR’s editors noted that ‘untreated abnormal lipid levels in childhood and adolescence are linked to increased risk for cardiovascular disease in adulthood,’ but they stopped short of endorsing routine lipid testing for adolescents.” MedPage pointed out that “the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends screening youths with specific risk factors such as overweight and family history.” WebMD (1/21, Warner) and HealthDay (1/21, Reinberg) also covered the story.

Raised nutritional awareness may help curb obesity epidemic. The Economist (1/21) writes on the obesity epidemic in the US, noting that at 33% obesity rate, “Americans are more likely to be overweight than to pay federal income tax. But the good news is that the nation may have stopped getting fatter,” a study published in the Journal of the American Medical association this month found. Still, the obesity rate “places a burden on the healthcare system,” wrote Eric Finkelstein and Justin Trogdon in Health Affairs. “Kathleen Sebelius, the health secretary, says that ‘fighting obesity is at the heart’ of health reform.” But Trogdon notes that “Americans are suspicious of the nanny state,” and the “raised awareness of the need for a balanced diet” may better reverse the rise in obesity.

Shift to low-calorie menus said to have been driven by customer demand. The Wall Street Journal (1/22, B6, Jargon) reports that numerous restaurant chains are shifting towards low-calorie menus in a bid to attract customers who want to eat healthier. Other companies, such as McDonald’s, will offer low-calorie alternatives instead of adjusting their existing products. According to the restaurant chains, the shift to low-calorie items has largely been the result of customer demand as opposed to the threat of legal action.

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