Fast Food Raises Cholesterol Levels in Kids as Much as 20%, New Study Finds

Fast Food Raises Cholesterol Levels in Kids as Much as 20%, New Study Finds

Fast food isn’t healthy. This isn’t new news, of course. But a new study on the link between fast food and cholesterol levels reinforces the warnings against regular consumption, especially for children.

For children who ate fast food more than once per week, LDL cholesterol levels (low-density lipoprotein) — the “bad” cholesterol levels — were higher than the kids who didn’t eat fast food as frequently, says the new research out of the Population Health Research Institute at St. Georges, University of London.

The study researchers looked at data from nearly two thousand ethnically diverse children, ages 9-10, from 85 primary schools in part of the Child Heart and Health Study in England. They used certain visual cues and other techniques to encourage accurate reporting from the children.

The children who regularly ate fast food showed between 13 to 20 percent higher levels of LDL cholesterol than the kids who ate it less frequently or not at all.

“The higher total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol concentrations observed [in the frequent fast food group], if sustained, are sufficiently large to increase long term [coronary heart disease] risk by around 10%,” noted the study’s lead author, Dr. Angela Donin.

“These results suggest that [more fast food meals] are likely to have adverse public health consequences and should be actively discouraged.”

The same subjects also showed lower levels of protein, fiber, and key micronutrients like vitamin C, iron, and folate, “suggesting a dietary pattern rich in calories, but poor in nutrients,” notes the website Food Navigator. “The unhealthy dietary patterns could have undesirable health consequences if continued into later life.”

The research didn’t control for physical activity, however, and physical activity levels are linked to cholesterol levels. But a strong connection between fast food and sedentary lifestyles has been established by numerous studies already.

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Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites and, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better.