As part of a series of blogs about cholesterol that we have recently been publishing, this blog demonstrates a relationship between having low cholesterol and the likelihood of developing depression.
I’ve already made my case for cholesterol in nourishing the brain’s health. As it turns out, innumerable studies have demonstrated that depression runs much higher in people who have low cholesterol. And people who start taking cholesterol-lowering medication (i.e., statins) can become much more depressed. I’ve witnessed this myself in my own practice. It’s unclear if the depression is a direct result of the drug itself, or if it simply reflects a consequence of a lowered cholesterol level, which is the explanation I favor. Studies dating back more than a decade show a connection between low total cholesterol and depression, not to mention impulsive behaviors including suicide and violence. Dr. James M. Greenblatt, a dually certified child and adult psychiatrist and author of The Breakthrough Depression Solution, wrote a beautiful article for Psychology Today in 2011 in which he summarized the evidence. In 1993, elderly men with low cholesterol were found to have a 300 percent higher risk of depression than their counterparts with higher cholesterol. A 1997 Swedish study identified a similar pattern: Among 300 otherwise healthy women aged thirty-one to sixty-five, those in the bottom tenth percentile for cholesterol levels experienced significantly more depressive symptoms than the others in the study with higher cholesterol levels. In 2000, scientists in the Netherlands reported that men with long-term low total cholesterol levels experienced more depressive symptoms than those with higher cholesterol levels. According to a 2008 report published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, “low serum cholesterol may be associated with suicide attempt history.” The researchers looked at a group of 417 patients who had attempted suicide—138 men and 279 women— and compared them with 155 psychiatric patients who had not attempted suicide, as well as 358 healthy control patients. The study defined low serum cholesterol as less than 160. The results were quite dramatic. It showed that individuals in the low-cholesterol category were 200 percent more likely to have attempted suicide. And in 2009, the Journal of Psychiatric Research published a study that followed nearly forty-five hundred U.S. veterans for fifteen years. Depressed men with low total cholesterol levels faced a sevenfold increased risk of dying prematurely from unnatural causes such as suicide and accidents than the others in the study. As noted earlier, suicide attempts have long been shown to run higher in people who have low total cholesterol. I could go on and on showcasing studies from all around the world that arrive at the same conclusion for both men and women: If you’ve got low cholesterol, you’ve got a much higher risk of developing depression. And the lower you go, the closer you are to harboring thoughts of suicide. I don’t mean to say this in a casual manner, but we have documented proof now from many prestigious institutions of just how serious this cause-and-effect relationship is. This relationship is also well documented in the field of bipolar disorder. Those who are bipolar are much more likely to attempt suicide if they have low cholesterol.
As you can see, lowering cholesterol has yet another detremental effect to our overall health; namely lowering our mood. We think you will agree that the statistics are shocking nand show that people within a wide demogaphic, both men and women, who have been advised to lower their cholesterol fo their ‘health’ show a huge increase in depressive symptoms.
For more info. and as always to share your stories, please submit comments below!