Objective: Our aim was to examine the relative contributions of changes in dietary fat intake and use of cholesterol-lowering medications to changes in concentrations of total cholesterol among adults in the United States from 1988-1994 to 2007-2008.
Method: We used data from adults aged 20-74 years who participated in National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys from 1988-1994 to 2007-2008. The effect of change in dietary fat intake on concentrations of total cholesterol was estimated by the use of equations developed by Keys, Hegsted, and successors.
Results: Age-adjusted mean concentrations of total cholesterol were 5.60 mmol/L (216 mg/dl) during 1988-1994 falling to 5.09 mmol/L (197 mg/dl) in 2007-2008 (P<0.001). No significant changes in the intake of total fat, saturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, and dietary cholesterol were observed from 1988-1994 to 2007-2008. However, the age-adjusted use of cholesterol-lowering medications increased from 1.6% to 12.5% (P<0.001). The various equations suggested that changes in dietary fat made minimal contributions to the observed trend in mean concentrations of total cholesterol. The increased use of cholesterol-lowering medications was estimated to account for approximately 46% of the change.
Discussion: Mean concentrations of total cholesterol among adults in the United States have declined by ∼4% since 1988-1994. The increased use of cholesterol-lowering medications has apparently accounted for about half of this small fall. Further substantial decreases in cholesterol might be potentially achievable by implementing effective and feasible public health interventions to promote the consumption of a more healthful diet by US adults.
Disclaimer: The findings and conclusions in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.