30 November 2008

Low cholesterol increases suicide in bipolar patients

Supports Chapter 22: The dangers of low cholesterol
and Chapter 26: Diet and the brain

Several studies have been conducted looking at levels of blood cholesterol and its effect on the brain. Most have found that people with one or more of many mental illnesses from Alzheimer’s disease to depression tend to have lower blood cholesterol than healthy people, a few studies have been equivocal.

In a new study, to be published soon, scientists at the University Hospital Centre Zagreb, Croatia, investigated whether there were differences in the serum cholesterol levels in hospitalized bipolar disorder male patients with history of suicide attempts and without suicide attempts.

They found there was a significant difference. Men who attempted suicide had significantly lower levels of total cholesterol (median 3.9 mmol/L vs 4.8 mmol/L); they also had lower LDL (median 2.3 mmol/L vs 3.0 mmol/L).

This adds to the weight of evidence both in Trick and Treat, and to my earlier post, that low cholesterol levels can play havoc with the brain.

Vuksan-Cusa B, et al. Differences in cholesterol and metabolic syndrome between bipolar disorder men with and without suicide attempts. To appear in: Progress in Neuropsychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry (2008)
doi: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2008.10.017

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Do you think low cholesterol is what contributes to seasonal affective disorder (SAD) depression too?
Is it possible the body produces more cholesterol when there is more sunlight? To make vitamin D from sunlight the body needs cholesterol.
I don't remember suffering from SAD until recent years; and it is recent years that I've been on a 'health' kick, of course following the recommended dietary reference intakes and a low-fat diet. But not anymore! I'm 'fat' happy now.

Anonymous said...

Seen as my brain juices are flowing: Could low cholesterol levels be implicated in female PMS depression too?
As the sex hormones rise, more cholesterol (precursor to oestrogen and progesterone) must be needed/ used up and levels perhaps drop, if insufficient nutriment is supplied to keep up with demand.
So, menstruating females should eat lots of saturated fat to avoid premenstrual irritability?

Barry Groves said...

Hi Anonymous

You certainly have a point about a possible connection between cholesterol, vitamin D and SAD.

Vitamin D is made from cholesterol. So the body makes vitamin D from sunlight, rather than cholesterol. That said, low cholesterol may well reduce vitamin D synthesis.

On your second point:
The sex hormones are made from cholesterol. If cholesterol is low, hormone synthesis could be disrupted. But whether this would result in the typical PMS symptoms, I don't know, but it is certainly an area worth researching.

Anne said...

Hi Barry,

My 74 years young mother has heart problems (high heart rate, arrythmia). She had her gallbladder (due to gallstones, probably because she didn't eat enough saturated fats!) removed when she was younger so finds eating fats make her feel unwell. Do you have any suggestions?

Thanks, Anne.

Barry Groves said...

Hi Anne

Although your mother has had her gallbladder removed, ther liver should still be producing bile, which is storted to some extent in the bile duct.

This means that she should still be able to emulsify some fats. It may help if she eats fats 'little and often' rather than all in a big meal.

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Drug Rehab Centers said...

Could it possibly be that men who tend to engage in suicide-like behaviours have a much more destructive personality? If your personality is more destructive, you probably eat much less healthy if at all and so your body is forced to burn the fat that is stored on your body thus you have lower saturated fats.

This seems to be more of a correlation than a causation type scenario. More studies need to be done to exactly why some bi-polar patients are more suicidal than others.

Anonymous said...

This is a very interesting post.

A couple a years ago, I had a blood test that suggested I had very low levels of blood serum cholesterol.

In the winter, I get weird depressive episodes, and I've been almost admitted to a psychiatric ward twice.

I wonder if it has to do with my low cholesterol levels? Maybe I should be for this.

I also have a twin that suffers from a severe form of autism, and in rare cases of autism, low cholesterol levels have been known to produce autistic symptoms.

Maybe all of this is connected?

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