Lifewatch: Cholesterol Screenings

LOS ANGELES -- The American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending cholesterol screenings for children as young as two years old.

High cholesterol is affecting the youngest Americans, and there is mounting evidence that childhood prevention is key.

Several studies have shown that among school aged children with high cholesterol, 75% of them continued to have high cholesterol as adults.

At his heaviest, James Michaud weighed 280 pounds.  Then, in the 9th grade, he found out his cholesterol wasn't much lower.  That's when he decided that something had to change.

But with his teenage brother, sister, mom and dad also battling high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes, James has risk in his genes.

It's families like the Michauds who are the target of the American Academy of Pediatrics just released recommendation: to test children for high cholesterol, starting as early as 2 years old.

"We're looking at an explosion of obesity and overweight in our children. And we're starting to see what we used to think of as adult diseases - now occurring in the pediatric population," said Dr. Francine Kaufman of the Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

Dr. Kaufman said unhealthy lifestyles start practically at birth.

"It's not uncommon for me to see a sweetened beverage - a soda in a baby bottle. It's not uncommon for me to hear that the first food a child ate was a french fry," said Dr. Kaufman.

Now, James is losing weight and his cholesterol is back to normal, and he plans to keep it that way.

There is another school of thought, though.  Some pediatricians argue that telling children they have high cholesterol may worry them unnecessarily and distract them from pressing threats to their health such as drugs, depression, cigarettes, and violence.

Reported by Kristy Ondo