A comparison of serum total cholesterol levels and their determinants between the Federal Republic of Germany and the United States

J. Rehm, C. Sempos, L. Kohlmeier, G. Myers, W. Thefeld, E. Gunter, M. Thamm, R. Dortschy, R. Murphy, M. Feinleib, H. Hoffmeister

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Mean serum total cholesterol levels appear to be higher in the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) than in the United States (US) while coronary heart disease death rates are lower. The study examined possible factors for the difference including possible differences in laboratory methodology. Cross-sectional data from the first two waves of the German National Health Surveys (1984-1986 and 1987-1989; n = 9709) and from the Second National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1976-1980; n = 7832) were compared for men and women 25-69 years of age. The influence of age, body mass index, diet, cigarette smoking, education, income, use of oral contraceptives or antihypertensive agents, alcohol consumption and potential differences in laboratory measurement were explored using multiple regression techniques separately for men and women for ages 25-39, 40-59 and 60-69 years of age. Overall ages, unadjusted mean total cholesterol-levels were higher in German than US men (6.02 vs. 5.64 mmol/l) and in German than US women (6.04 vs. 5.80 mmol/l) as were HDL cholesterol levels (men: 1.30 vs 1.14 mmol/l; women: 1.65 vs. 1.38 mmol/l). Adjusting for lifestyle factors explained, on the average, 40% of the differences in mean total cholesterol of which half or 20% was accounted for by adjusting for alcohol intake. Adjusting for possible laboratory differences explained, on the average, an additional 30% Of the differences. Frequency of alcohol intake was the most important factor in explaining differences in mean HDL cholesterol levels. Adjustment for differences in alcohol intake had negligible effects on reducing the differences in mean non-HDL cholesterol.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)669-675
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Journal of Epidemiology
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Alcohol
  • Body mass index
  • Coronary heart disease
  • German cardiovascular prevention study
  • HDL cholesterol
  • Non-HDL cholesterol
  • Serum total cholesterol

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology


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