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Cholesterol levels dropping for many Americans

Category: Heart Health and Cholesterol

A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) indicates that cholesterol levels, which can be found out with a lab test, are in decline for many Americans, according to Time magazine.

The research, which was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) analyzed the levels of LDL, or "bad" cholesterol, the HDL, or "good" cholesterol as well as the artery-clogging triglycerides of adults who were at least 20 years old, between 1988 and 2010. The results showed that over the last couple decades LDL was down and HDL was up.

The news source noted that a large portion of the trend can be attributed to cholesterol medications known as statins. Between 1988 and 1994 only 3.4 percent of the participants used statins, and that number rose to 15.5 percent between 2007 and 2010.

One of the authors of the study, Margaret Carroll, M.S.P.H, noted that subjects who did not take the medications also had reduced cholesterol levels. This may be attributed to a healthier diet and frequent exercise.

"The cholesterol levels have been on the decline for many decades, and I think this partly has to do with healthier lifestyles and a variety of advancements in treatment," David Gordon, M.D., who works for National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and was not involved in the study, told Time. "More people are aware of cholesterol levels and doctors take it more seriously."

The authors of the study also reported that the drop in cholesterol among adults may also be due to government action. For example, since 2006 food companies have had to list trans fats on the labels of their food. Another report, which was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, showed that New York City residents engaged in healthier diets and ate less trans fats after the city put a restriction on them at restaurants.

According to the Mayo Clinic, trans fats are made when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil via a process called hydrogenation, which gives the food a longer shelf life and a less greasy feel. They are proven to be more detrimental to the body because they not only raise the LDL cholesterol in the body, but they lower the HDL cholesterol. Scientists don't know why trans fats raise cholesterol levels more than other fats, but they think it has something to do with the body having more difficulty digesting the oil after hydrogen is added.

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