Copenhagen, Denmark—Here’s a possible explanation why prescriptions for statins might increase after the holiday season.

An article in the international journal Atherosclerosis reports that too much rich, celebratory food raises cholesterol levels—at least in Denmark.

In fact, University of Copenhagen researchers found that cholesterol levels are 20% higher after the Christmas break than in the summer.

“Our study shows strong indications that cholesterol levels are influenced by the fatty food we consume when celebrating Christmas. The fact that so many people have high cholesterol readings straight after the Christmas holiday is very surprising,” explained corresponding author Anne Langsted, MD.

To reach that conclusion, the study team conducted an observational study of 25,764 individuals from the Copenhagen General Population Study, with participants aged 20 to 100 years. For the study, the main outcome measures were defined as mean total and LDL-cholesterol levels, with hypercholesterolemia defined as total cholesterol >5 mmol/L (>193 mg/dL) or LDL cholesterol >3 mmol/L (>116 mg/dL).

Results indicate that mean levels of total and LDL cholesterol increased in individuals examined in summer through December and January.

Specifically, the study determined that compared with individuals examined in May-June, those examined in December-January had 15% higher total cholesterol levels, while the corresponding value for LDL cholesterol was 20%.

Of the participants tested during the first week of January, immediately after the Christmas holidays, 77% had LDL cholesterol above 3 mmol/L (116 mg/dL) and 89% had total cholesterol above 5 mmol/L (193 mg/dL).

“In individuals attending the Copenhagen General Population Study in the first week of January, the multivariable adjusted odds ratio of hypercholesterolemia was 6.0 (95% CI 4.2-8.5) compared with individuals attending the study during the rest of the year,” study authors concluded.

Based on that, the researchers suggest that “a diagnosis of hypercholesterolemia should not be made around Christmas, and our results stress the need for re-testing such patients later and certainly prior to initiation of cholesterol-lowering treatment.”

“For individuals, this could mean that if their cholesterol readings are high straight after Christmas, they could consider having another test taken later on in the year,” added first author Signe Vedel-Krogh, MD, who noted healthcare professionals should be aware of the trend.

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