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Our Children as Guinea Pigs?

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Childhood obesity has increasingly been a concern of many.  Time magazine recently focused on childhood obesity and according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) 16% of American children and teens are obese and another 32% are overweight.

A new policy now claims that children as young as eight with high cholesterol should be put on statins.  This is the latest idea for tackling the obesity epidemic and the fact that it came from the highly regarded American Academy of Pediatrics means many doctors will take the recommendation seriously.
On July 7, the Academy published guidelines that told doctors it was a good idea to prescribe cholesterol-lowering drugs like statins to kids as young as eight years old, because there was more evidence showing that our journey towards heart disease starts at a younger age than was previously thought.
While some doctors applauded the idea, others were incredulous. A New York Times article highlights doctors calling attention to a lack of evidence that the use of statins in children would prevent heart attacks later in life.  In the UK, medical writer Jerome Burne expressed the concerns of a number of leading UK medics clearly in the Daily Mail, writing that doctors are concerned with that are far too many uncertainties involved with giving children statins and that the better way to help would be lifestyle changes with eating properly and exercise.
AAHF, working alongside our international affiliate, the Alliance for Natural Health has the following concerns with the Academy’s position on giving statins to children to tackle high cholesterol:

  • Kids require a lot more cholesterol than adults for brain development, so could cholesterol lowering drugs provide another, unknown source of risk?
  • Is cholesterol really a major risk factor in heart disease? Recent evidence would suggest this is not consistently the case, and that cholesterol—even so-called ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol—serves many beneficial functions in the body. Check out Mike Adam’s layperson’s account on this at Natural News.
  • Many scientists and doctors suggest that apolipoproteins, particularly the apo B:apo A-I ratio, may be a much more accurate risk factor than total cholesterol or even cholesterol ratios. See Nature Clinical Practice Cardiovascular Medicine (2008) 5, 18-19, for a recent discussion of the relevance of apolipoprotein ratios as a measure of risk.
  • Most drugs have been tested on adults not kids, so their safety to kids is not known.
  • We know nothing about the effects of staying on a drug regimen for, say, 50 or more years.
  • Given that statins suppress the body’s natural production of co-enzyme Q-10, there are additional risks, especially for kids. Will your doctor know to prescribe a natural product like co-enzyme Q-10? Most won’t.
  • It is recognized that statins may cause birth defects if taken by pregnant women. Are we prepared to put children on statins with no real knowledge of what the long-term outcomes might be, to them or their offspring?
  • If you put a child on statins, will they really adjust other lifestyle factors such as fruit and vegetable intake and exercise—or will they think they can do as they please because they’re taking a drug?
  • How much training has your doctor had on dietary manipulation to help reduce heart disease risk? In the vast majority of cases, the answer would be precious little.
  • Has your doctor been trained in delivering fitness and exercise regimens for children—or even adults—who are obese and might be at high risk of suffering a heart attack, asthma attack or other serious problem?

Popping a pill—or a statin capsule—might work wonders for the bank balances of the pharmaceutical manufacturer and its supply chain, but it raises some very serious concerns about the long-term risks. We see it as a classic example of short-sighted healthcare at work.

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