Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Implications of Low Cholesterol in Depression and Suicide- Dr. Greenblatt, MD

After fatigue, the most common symptom of celiac disease                                                            and gluten sensitivity is probably
depression if one were to include mild depression. Low levels of cholesterol, triglycerides and essential fatty acids (EFAs) are intimately linked to depression. Understanding the consequences of deficiencies in essential fats and cholesterol is important for the effective treatment and response of depression. Whether low cholesterol is drug induced, genetic, or the result of a leaky gut and poor digestive enzyme production or low bile production from chronic gluten ingestion in a gluten sensitive person, low cholesterol impairs optimal brain function and often prevents successful recovery.

Some gluten sensitivity researchers say that if a person has low cholesterol, low triglycerides, or low essential fatty acids on an initial assessment, then that is enough to give the person the diagnosis of gluten sensitivity. I have found 50% of people on initial assessment who end up with positive gluten sensitivity diagnosis, have low levels of each, cholesterol or triglycerides or EFAs. Fixed only when the bowel issues are fixed. (Grain free, dairy free, sugar free way of eating called GAPS (www.gaps.me) seems the only way to fix it.)

James M. Greenblatt, M.D.

For the last quarter century, we have been told that cholesterol is dangerous for our health and were advised to avoid it in order to live a healthier life. However, cholesterol is essential in maintaining good mental health. The brain is the most cholesterol-rich organ in the body, and depriving the brain of essential fatty acids and cholesterol can lead to detrimental health problems. Lower levels of cholesterol in the blood are associated with a heightened risk of developing major depressive disorder, as well as an increased risk of death from suicide. A study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research found that depressed men with low total cholesterol levels (less than 165 milligrams per deciliter [mg/dL] or less than 4.14 nmol/l) were seven times more likely to die prematurely from unnatural causes such as suicide and accidents.

Most recently, the continued allegation that cholesterol is dangerous came under scrutiny. A meta-analysis published in the March 2014 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine found that there's not enough evidence supporting the claim that saturated fat increases the risk of heart disease. After reviewing 72 different studies, researchers did not find that people who ate higher levels of saturated fat had more heart disease than those who ate less. Researchers came to the conclusion that instead of avoiding fats, which are essential to maintaining brain health, scientists are identifying the real villains as sugar and highly processed foods.

Low Cholesterol and Depression

Several studies have linked low cholesterol levels to an increased risk of developing depression. Consider the following examples:
1. 1993 paper published in the Lancet reported, "Among men aged seventy years and older, categorically defined depression was three times more common in the group with low total plasma cholesterol . . . than in those with higher concentrations."
2. 2000 study published in Psychosomatic Medicine, researchers compared cholesterol levels to depressive symptoms in men ranging in age from forty to seventy. They found that men with long-term, low total cholesterol levels "have a higher prevalence of depressive symptoms" compared to those with higher cholesterol levels.
3. Women with low cholesterol levels are also vulnerable to depression.

Of note, the reverse seems true, that more cholesterol is protective of depression. In a 2008 meta-analysis, higher total cholesterol was associated with lower levels of depression. 

Low cholesterol has other serious health implications such as cancer, infertility and lower immune health and you can get more info here and here

If you have high cholesterol and are worried about it causing heart disease, see a balance article here describing how cholesterol levels are not the focus of "heart care'' in the recent guidelines.

If it is hard for you to introduce more saturated fats and give up the poly unsaturated fats because you believe they will lower your rate of heart attacks, then you should watch the gripping movie called Oiling of America. Everyone in your family should see it. 

To Your Health.
Dr. Barbara