Low cholesterol increases total mortality in the elderly

Part 1

Two studies which considered total blood cholesterol levels and mortality in the elderly were published in the Lancet almost simultaneously in 1997. In the first, scientists working at Leiden University's Medical Centre found that 'each 1 mmol/L increase in total cholesterol corresponded to a 15% decrease in mortality'.[1] (emphasis added

Similarly, doctors at Reykjavik Hospital and Heart Preventive Clinic in Iceland also studied total mortality and blood cholesterol in men over eighty to show that those with blood cholesterol levels over 6.5 mmol/L (250mg/dL) had less than half the death rate (48%) of those whose cholesterol level was a 'healthy' 5.2 mmol/L (200mg/dl).[2]

This relationship between low cholesterol and higher mortality was strengthened by a further study published six years later.

The UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, studied the association between blood cholesterol levels and 7-year all-cause mortality.[3] What they found was that people whose cholesterol levels were below 170 mg/dL (4.4 mmol/L) had nearly double the death rate over the period of those with higher levels. While some of this increase was attributed to inflammation and poor diet, the low cholesterol link was still apparent even after these factors had been allowed for.


1. Weverling-Rijnsburger AWE, et al. Total cholesterol and risk of mortality in the oldest old. Lancet 1997; 350: 1119-23.

2. Jonsson A, Sigvaldason H, Sigfusson N. Total cholesterol and mortality after age 80 years. Lancet 1997; 350: 1778-9.

3. Hu P, Seeman TE, Harris TB, Reuben DB. Does inflammation or undernutrition explain the low cholesterol-mortality association in high-functioning older persons? MacArthur studies of successful aging. J Am Geriatr Soc 2003; 51: 80-4.

Part 1. Overall Death -1 | Part 2. Overall Death -2 | Part 3. Overall Death -3
Part 4: Young deaths
Part 5: Middle aged deaths
Part 6: Elderly Death — 1 | Part 7: Elderly Death — 2 | Part 8: Elderly Death — 3

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Last updated: December 9, 2011