Low cholesterol increases suicide risk

Depression is the main psychiatric illness leading to suicide, and there is an observed increase in suicides among those eating a cholesterol-lowering diet.

In 1992, Dr H Engleberg proposed a hypothesis to explain this. He suggested that decreases in blood cholesterol affected the balance of the metabolism of fats within the brain and that this could have profound effects on brain function.[1] He showed that low blood cholesterol was found in aggressive people and those with an antisocial personality. These averaged typically 194 mg/dL (5.04 mmol/L).

Mental patients with high blood cholesterol of 290mg/dL (7.55mmol/L) were less regressed and withdrawn than those with a lower 184mg/dL (4.80mmol/L).

And a French study concluded: 'Both low serum cholesterol concentration and declining cholesterol concentration were associated with increased risk of death from suicide in men.'[2]

There are many clinical studies showing that total cholesterol levels below 180 mg/dL (4.7 mmol/L) are associated with depression, accidents, suicide, homicide, antisocial personality disorder in criminals and Army veterans, cocaine and heroin addicts. It is also associated with high relapse rates after detoxification and rehabilitation.[3]


1. Engleberg H. Low serum cholesterol and suicide. Lancet 1992; 339: 727-9
2. Zureik M, Courbon D, Ducimetiere P. Serum cholesterol concentration and death from suicide in men: Paris Prospective Study I. BMJ 1996; 313: 649-51.
3. Buydens-Branchey L, Branchey M. Association Between Low Plasma Levels of Cholesterol and Relapse in Cocaine Addicts. Psychosom Med 2003; 65: 86-91.

Part 1: Depression | Part 2: Suicide

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Last updated: December 9, 2011