Young at Heart? Vitamins improve cholesterol problems in children

An estimated 50 million children have high levels of the “bad” cholesterol — known as LDL — that puts them at high risk for suffering heart attacks as adults. Most of these children have inherited disorders causing these abnormal cholesterol levels. Because prescription cholesterol drugs are not usually recommended for use in children, scientists have begun to look at other options for children with these disorders.

Now a team of researchers reports that adding antioxidant vitamin supplements to the diets of children with inherited lipid disorders improved their cardiovascular health. “When we gave these children moderate doses of vitamins C (500 mg) and E (400 IU) for six weeks, we saw a significant improvement in blood-vessel function, which is an important indicator of cardiovascular health” said lead author, Marguerite M. Engler, PhD.

Studies show that diets rich in fresh fruits and vegetables lower the risks of heart attack and strokes in adults. Engler and her colleagues predicted that, when given as vitamin supplements, the antioxidants normally found in fruits and vegetables might benefit children with high cholesterol. Their study focused on endothelial function (an indicator of cardiovascular health) in seven females and eight males between the ages of nine and 20, all with inherited lipid disorders, who were put on a diet low in saturated fats and cholesterol. During the six-month study, some of the children were given either the antioxidants or placebos for six weeks. Later, the subjects received the opposite treatment.

Researchers found that the diet had no effect on endothelial dysfunction, but it was associated with an 8% reduction in LDL cholesterol. The addition of vitamin supplements, however, did improve endothelial function, on average, to normal levels found in healthy children. “The impact was quite significant,” Engler said.

University of California, Aug 11, 2003