Healthy young women with naturally low cholesterol levels are likely to face greater risks of poor psychological health than women with moderate to high cholesterol levels, new research done at the Duke University Medical Center indicates.
Edward C. Suarez, Ph.D., who conducted the research, found that 39 percent of the women with naturally occurring low cholesterol levels, defined as 4.14 millimole per liter (mmol/l) or 160 micrograms per deciliter (mg/dl), in his study scored high to very high on a depression scale, and 35 percent of them scored similarly high on a scale measuring anxiety. This compares with 19 percent for depression and 21 percent for anxiety among the women with cholesterol levels above 4.14 mmol/l or 160 mg/dl.
The study, reported in the June issue of Psychosomatic Medicine, also looked at the relation of low density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations and found them to be significantly linked with depression and anxiety.
"The findings add important information in helping us to understand biological aspects of depression and anxiety. Furthermore, the findings may be relevant to observations of increased non-illness-related deaths [suicide and other traumatic deaths] among persons with naturally occurring low cholesterol levels," said Suarez.
A total of 121 women between ages 18 and 27 participated in the research, including 69 with low cholesterol levels.
"Lack of sufficient numbers of low cholesterol subjects was a stumbling block for some earlier studies in this area," said Suarez. "In addition, most previous studies were done exclusively with men."
In the general population, only a relatively small number of people, approximately 10-15 percent of persons living in the United States, have low levels of total cholesterol, Dr. Suarez pointed out.
"This study does not address the question of whether lipid lowering is associated with the onset of depressive mood and anxiety states," cautioned Suarez. "The only conclusions that can be drawn from these data are that healthy individuals prone to depressive moods and anxiety exhibit low concentrations of lipids and lipoproteins."
The study was supported by funding from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health.
Psychosomatic Medicine is the official peer-reviewed journal of the American Psychosomatic Society, published bimonthly. For information about the journal, contact Joel E. Dimsdale, M.D., editor-in-chief, at 619-543-5468.