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Introduction: The aim of this study was to estimate the mean prevalence of dyslipidaemia, hyperglycaemia, systemic inflammation and anthropometry as CVD risk factors as well as dietary intakes and to investigate associations between these CVD risk factors and dietary intakes among apparently healthy school-aged girls and boys, attending five purposively selected schools in rural Cofimvaba, situated in the Eastern Cape Province of SA.
Methods: A random sample of 233 children, aged 6-18 years, was used for dietary intake, anthropometric and fasting biochemical measurements. Data were analysed on SPSS, version 22.0, for descriptive analyses as well as Levene’s test for equality of variances, one-way analysis of variance and Pearson correlations.
Results: Only 1.3% of the children presented with hypercholesterolaemia (TC≥5.18 mmol/l) and 2.1% and 7.3% had elevated low density lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL-C) and triglyceride levels respectively whereas 42.5% had low high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (HDL-C) levels. No specific trends were observed among the age groups or genders. The highest prevalence of abnormal lipid markers was among the 6-8 year old girls. Hyperglycaemia was observed in 10.3% and systemic inflammation in 20.2% of the children. Most of the dietary intake variables showed normal intakes, except for total energy and dietary fibre that showed a low intake.
Conclusion: CVD risk is a problem in these children and adolescents as an undesirable lipid profile of high prevalence of low HDL-C despite a low prevalence of hypercholesterolaemia, hypertriglyceridaemia and high LDL-C, was found, with younger children being more at risk. Hyperglycaemia and systemic inflammation was also prevalent, but no obesity was observed. Healthy lifestyles, including physical exercise, should be promoted and nutrition education and awareness programmes implemented.