Statins are "safe" for children to use if they have genetically high cholesterol, a new study has found.
Concerns have been raised over the use of statins to treat young people with familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH), an inherited condition which leads to higher than normal levels of cholesterol in the blood.
But a new study, published in the Journal of Clinical Lipidology, examined how statin use affects children using the UK Paediatric Familial Hypercholesterolaemia Register.
The study, funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF), examined child growth, proteins in the liver and muscles, and obesity levels.
They found that statins had no impact on the growth of children, and did not lead to damage in the liver or muscles, and obesity rates were half as high as those found in the general population.
The BHF estimates that about one in 250 people has familial hypercholesterolaemia, including an estimated 56,000 children in the UK.
However, only 600 children have been diagnosed with the condition, meaning that thousands are unaware of their risk of heart disease - people with the condition are at increased risk of heart attacks in their 30s or 40s, the charity said.
Study lead Professor Steve Humphries, from University College London, said: "These findings are incredibly reassuring. Research has shown that children with FH start to develop a build-up of fatty plaque in their arteries before the age of 10.
"Statin treatment can not only prevent, but actually reverse this build-up. Now, we can offer parents of children with the condition further comfort that the treatment is safe to take from a young age."