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CDC study finds drops in cholesterol levels since 1988

Drop attributed to lipid drug use, dietary changes

NEW YORK — An uptick in the use of cholesterol drugs since the late 1980s and changes in Americans' diets may account for a fall in cholesterol levels, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study, published this week in The Journal of the American Medical Association, examined three CDC National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, from 1988-1994, 1999-2002 and 1997-2010, looking at levels of "bad" low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, serum total cholesterol and "good" high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. During the 22-year period, LDL cholesterol levels fell from 129 to 116; TC fell from 206 to 196; and HDL cholesterol levels increased from 50.7 to 52.5. While triglycerides — another lipid linked to heart disease — increased from 118 in 1988-1994 to 123 in 1999-2002, they fell to 110 in 1997-2010.  

The study noted falls in levels of harmful lipids among obese adults during the 22-year period while also finding increases in the use of lipid-lowering medications, from 3.4% in 1988-1994 to 15.5% in 1997-2010. Published reports also noted that the elimination of trans fats from many popular foods could be a factor.


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