Americans’ total cholesterol trending down

October 18, 2012

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) shows that overall Americans’ total cholesterol levels seem to be going down. Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) looked at trends in serum lipid levels among adults age 20 and older who participated in national health surveys between 1988 and 2010. They looked at the average levels of the participants’ total cholesterol, “bad” LDL cholesterol, “good” HDL cholesterol, and artery-clogging triglycerides.

Looking at the measurements from the most recent study period, the researchers found total cholesterol among adults fell from 206 mg/dL in 1988–1994 to 196 mg/dL between 2007–2010. Overall LDL levels also dropped from 129 mg/dL to 116 mg/dL between the same survey periods and triglyceride levels had similar declines, from 123 mg/dL to 110 mg/dL. Lastly, HDL levels inched up between 1988 to 2010 from 50.7 mg/dL to 52.5 mg/dL. Interestingly, total LDL cholesterol declined among obese adults, but the authors did not see improvements in HDL cholesterol among this group.

The researchers say that the declines in total cholesterol were seen in those taking lipid-lowering medications known as statins, but also in those just relying on diet and exercise. The authors also credit government efforts to cut trans fats out of American diets.