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BACKGROUND: Blood cholesterol levels are a key determinant of coronary heart disease risk in adults, but the importance of lipid levels in the general population during childhood is less clear. We related arterial distensibility, a marker of vascular function known to be altered early in atherosclerosis, to the lipid profile of a population-based sample of children aged 9 to 11 years. METHODS AND RESULTS: A noninvasive ultrasound technique was used to measure arterial distension during the cardiac cycle in the brachial arteries of 361 children from 4 towns in the United Kingdom. This measure was related to their pulse pressure to assess arterial distensibility. All the children had previously had a comprehensive assessment of cardiovascular risk including a full lipid profile, cotinine-assessed smoke exposure, serum glucose, and questionnaire data on socioeconomic and dietary factors. Mean total cholesterol in the population was 4.72 [SD 0.75] mmol/L. There was a significant, inverse relation between cholesterol and distension of the artery across this range (linear regression coefficient -11.8 microm. mmol(-1). L(-1), P=0.003). Similar relationships were demonstrated with LDL and apolipoprotein B (-12.9 microm. mmol(-1). L(-1), P=0. 005 and -36.9 microm/mmol/L, P=0.01). HDL and triglyceride levels showed no consistent association with distensibility. CONCLUSIONS: LDL cholesterol levels had an impact on arterial distensibility in the first decade of life. Furthermore, the functional differences in the arterial wall were demonstrated within the lipid range found in normal children, a finding that raises the possibility that cholesterol levels in the general population during childhood may already be relevant to the development of vascular disease.


Journal article



Publication Date





1533 - 1538


Adult, Apolipoproteins B, Brachial Artery, Child, Cholesterol, Cholesterol, LDL, Female, Humans, Lipids, Longitudinal Studies, Male, Nitric Oxide, Regression Analysis, Ultrasonography, Vasomotor System