Eyebrows have been raised in some quarters following a recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics for cholesterol screening of children and adolescents in the USA.

The AAP wants testing for children with a family history of high cholesterol or heart disease and also recommends screening patients whose family history is unknown or those who have other factors for heart disease including obesity, high blood pressure or diabetes.

Screening should take place after the age of two, says the AAP, but no later than 10, noting that the best method for testing “is a fasting lipid profile”. Furthermore, the Academy claims that for children who are over eight and who have high LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol concentrations, “cholesterol-reducing medications should be considered”.

Younger patients with elevated cholesterol readings “should focus on weight reduction and increased activity while receiving nutritional counselling’, the AAP adds. It also recommends the use of reduced-fat dairy products, such as 2% milk, for children as young as one for whom overweight or obesity is a concern.

“We are in an epidemic,” said Jatinder Bhatia, a member of the Academy’s nutrition committee who told The New York Times that the “risk of giving statins at a lower age is less than the benefit you’re going to get out of it”.

Dr Bhatia went on to say that although there was not “a whole lot” of data on paediatric use of cholesterol-lowerers, recent research showed that the drugs were generally safe for children.