One out of every five U.S. teenagers has a cholesterol level that increases the risk of heart disease, federal health officials reported Thursday, providing striking new evidence that obesity is making more children prone to illnesses once primarily limited to adults.
A nationally representative survey of blood test results in American teenagers found that more than 20 percent of those ages 12 to 19 had at least one abnormal level of fat. The rate jumped to 43 percent among those adolescents who were obese.
Previous studies had indicated that unhealthy cholesterol levels, once a condition thought isolated to the middle-aged and elderly, were increasingly becoming a problem among the young, but the new data document the scope of the threat on a national level.
“This is the future of America,” said Linda Van Horn, a professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University who heads the American Heart Association’s Nutrition Committee. “These data really confirm the seriousness of our obesity epidemic. This really is an urgent call for health-care providers and families to take this issue seriously.”