Low cholesterol and sickle cell anemia

Sickle cell anemia is a disease in West Africa in which red blood cells are not the usual round shape but curved like the blade of a sickle.

This condition prevents hemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen around the body, from doing its job.

There is some disagreement as to whether sickle cell anemia also increases the risk of coronary heart disease.

Scientists at the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, School of Medicine, University of New Mexico, in Albuquerque, analysed the blood serum of children with the disease looking for levels of total cholesterol, HDL, LDL, triglycerides, and homocysteine.[1]

They found that both the male and female children with the disease had much lower cholesterol than healthy children of the same ages and sex. Because those with the disease had low levels of cholesterol, the scientists concluded that:

'Collectively, these results indicate that children with SCD [sickle cell disease] in northern Nigeria are not at increased risk of CVD [cardiovascular disease].'

But they obviously recognised that this low cholesterol was not as healthy as we think it is, because they continued:

'However, their marked hypocholesterolemia [low blood cholesterol] should be a cause of concern about the overall mortality and general well-being.'


1. VanderJagt DJ, Shores J, Okorodudu A, et al. Hypocholesterolemia in Nigerian children with sickle cell disease. J Trop Pediatr 2002; 48: 156-61.

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Last updated: December 9, 2011