Low Cholesterol Linked to Severe Depression

From the WebMD Archives

March 23, 2000 (Baltimore) -- Building on previous medical research finding a link between low cholesterol levels and violent death, notably suicide, a new study shows that men with relatively low cholesterol levels were up to seven times more likely to report symptoms of severe depression.

"Studies looking at the relationship between cholesterol level and depressive symptoms are scarce," says Diederick Grobbee, MD, PhD, co-author of the study, in a press release. "Because there has been so little research in this area, the reasons why low cholesterol influences the occurrence of depressive symptoms are unknown. This study provides further evidence that there is a relationship and reinforces the need to look at the reasons for the relationship." Grobbee is chair of the Julius Center for Patient Oriented Research at University Medical Center in Utrecht, Netherlands.

Grobbee and colleagues found that 130 men with total cholesterol levels less than 175 over a four-year period were four to seven times more likely to have symptoms of severe depression, compared with men with cholesterol levels of 230 to 270. No association was seen between cholesterol levels and anger or hostility. Recent weight loss and lower caloric intake were also associated with depression.

"This may be an important finding in the ongoing debate concerning the putative association between low cholesterol levels and death due to violent causes. Future studies are needed to reveal the mechanisms of this increased risk and to demonstrate its causal association with chronically low cholesterol levels," write Grobbee and colleagues.

Edward Suarez, PhD, who was not involved in the study, tells WebMD that he has also done research supporting a link between some component of blood fats, such as cholesterol or triglycerides, and depression and anxiety. He is assistant professor of medical psychology at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. "I think that at some point, measurement of cholesterol and the cholesterol profile may be used as a screening tool for depression," says Suarez.

  • According to a recent study, men who have relatively low levels of cholesterol are four to seven times more likely to report symptoms of severe depression than men with high cholesterol levels.
  • Although there have been a few studies showing this relationship between cholesterol and depression, scientists are still unsure how to explain this association.
  • Other attributes associated with depression in this study were recent weight loss and low caloric intake.