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Cholesterol & Triglycerides Health Center

Birth Weight, High Cholesterol Not Linked

Researcher: Earlier Studies showing Link Were Flawed
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Dec. 7, 2004 -- Don't blame your mother for your high cholesterol, a new study suggests. Despite studies to the contrary, low birth weight only slightly affects cholesterol later in life.

This new report appears in the latest issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.

The fairly controversial "fetal origins" theory -- that adult diseases can be traced back to weight while developing in the womb -- has linked high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol with a pregnant woman's nutrition, which affects her baby's birth size, explains lead researcher Rachel Huxley, DPhil, a community health researcher with Australia's University of Sidney.

However, recent review of those studies has questioned this link, calling the studies flawed. In fact, one recent, large study found that birth weight affected only triglyceride levels, a fat found in the blood that is linked to diabetes and higher heart disease risk.

In their study, Huxley and colleagues reviewed 58 studies involving nearly 70,000 people. After sifting through all the data and identifying the best studies, they found little evidence linking birth weight with high cholesterol in adulthood.

When birth weight was 1 kg lower than normal, there was only about 2.0 mg/dL higher total cholesterol later in life, she reports. This figure "could overestimate" the risk, since some studies in the review were based on mothers' recall.

Other studies conducted in Europe involving babies born during the Dutch Famine and the Leningrad Siege have also shown no association between low birth weight and subsequent cholesterol. In fact, babies born to malnourished mothers during these crises grew up avoiding high cholesterol problems.

It all points back to adults' need to change their eating habits, writes Huxley. Studies in the U.S. show that dietary changes can bring high cholesterol down by 15%. Also, whether it takes drugs or dietary changes, studies show that making changes in midlife reduces the risks of heart disease and early death, she adds.

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Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

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Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. But your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe medication, such as statins. Following medication, dietary, and exercise instructions should result in improvements.

Your total cholesterol level is High, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe statins or other cholesterol-lowering medications.

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