Background: There is a shortage of reference values for cardiovascular risk factors such as serum lipids, glucose and insulin related to biological, social and lifestyle factors for Swedish children and adolescents. Such values are needed for planning and evaluation of public health activities, and for clinical use.
Design and methods: Data for this cross-sectional, school-based study were collected during a school year (September to May). A random sample of 1137 girls and boys aged 9 and 15 years from two locations in central Sweden participated in the study, and blood samples were taken from 969 of them.
Methods: Fasting serum blood samples were analysed for triglycerides, total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, glucose and insulin. Physical examination included measurement of height, weight and pubertal status. Questionnaires provided family background data. Total physical activity was measured by accelerometer registration.
Results: Serum levels differed significantly between age and gender groups and were correlated to pubertal status. Neither genetic nor socio-economic background nor smoking status influenced the serum levels. Insulin levels were elevated in subjects with a body mass index in the highest decentile, compared with the levels in the rest of the subjects. The insulin levels were inversely associated with total physical activity, and physical activity varied with season.
Conclusions: Pubertal status (biological age) should to be considered in the interpretation of serum values in schoolchildren rather than chronological age. The interpretation of insulin values should include both body mass index and physical activity level, and perhaps also season. Previously described regional differences in serum lipid levels in Swedish adults seem to be present also in children.