Low Cholesterol Levels – Can Even Your LDL Get Too Low?
Can low cholesterol levels actually pose a health risk for certain people?
We've heard over and over that having high cholesterol increases our risk of heart disease. (And it can.)
We've been told and conditioned to believe that the lower you can get your cholesterol numbers … the better.
And if you're already in a high risk category for heart disease … it's recommended your numbers should be even lower.
But is the "lower is better" philosophy really true?
First, let's take a look at some undisputed facts about cholesterol.
We need cholesterol to help…
- Convert sunshine exposure to vitamin D
- Build and support healthy cell membranes
- In the production of bile (which in turn helps digest fats)
- In the metabolism of fat-soluble vitamins. (Such as vitamins K, E, D, and A.)
- Stimulate production of progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone (sex hormones)
It's for all these reasons and more that cholesterol is an absolutely essential substance for all animal life.
So let me ask you this…
Does a "lower is better" cholesterol strategy make sense knowing that your body cannot survive and thrive without it?
Is There a Link Between Low Cholesterol Levels and Anxiety, Depression, & Cancer?
Lower levels of LDL cholesterol have been associated with an increased risk of…
- hemorrhagic stroke
And if your cholesterol levels are low during pregnancy, you may run the risk of giving birth before the pregnancy reaches full-term.
Whenever there is a strong link between substances and a disease or ailment, it's a good idea to take a closer look to see if we can determine if the substance is causing the disease … or if it's a symptom of the disease.
Let's take a look at hemorrhagic strokes. We know that these type of strokes are more common in those with low cholesterol levels.
Because blood with smaller levels of cholesterol has a harder time clotting. That's why lower levels of cholesterol appear to have a causal relationship on hemorrhagic strokes.
What's interesting here is that an ischemic stroke (which is much more common) takes place when blood flow is blocked to the brain – usually by a clot or some other material. And typically, cholesterol is the source of the blockage.
So while low cholesterol increases risk for blood bleeding into the brain and causing an hemorrhagic stroke … it's high cholesterol that will increase your odds for a blockage leading to an ischemic stroke.
Anyone else noticing that balance vs. extremes seems to be the answer? (More on that in a minute…)
What about the relationship between low cholesterol and anxiety or depression?
Did you know that cholesterol also plays an important part in brain function?
Serotonin is a chemical that's needed to maintain good cognitive function and is a major contributor to our mood. More serotonin typically means you have a better mood and higher feeling of happiness.
Well, studies now show that lower levels of brain cholesterol can inhibit the effects of serotonin. Result? A downward spiral of cognitive ability that can lead to … you guessed it … anxiety and depression.
For other health ailments like cancer or liver disease, low cholesterol is believed to be more of a symptom of that disease, rather than a cause.
This is especially true for liver disease as the liver naturally produces about 75% of your body's cholesterol and a compromised liver will not be able to perform normally.
When you dig into the research, you find that cholesterol is like the rest of your body and life for that matter … extremes are bad. Proper balance is good.
So while lower LDL levels may reduce your risk of heart disease, dramatically low cholesterol levels have their own set of health risks and is not as preferred as many want us to think.
- Borgherini G, Dorz S, Conforti D, et al. Serum cholesterol and psychological distress in hospitalized depressed patients. Acta Psychiatr Scand. 2002;105:149–152. [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11939964]
- Beasley CL, Honer WG, Bergmann K, et al. Reductions in cholesterol and synaptic markers in association cortex in mood disorders. Bipolar Disord. 2005;7:449–455. [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16176438]
- Papakostas GI, et al. Cholesterol in mood and anxiety disorders: Review of the literature and new hypotheses. European Neuropsychopharmacology. 2004;14:135. [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15013029]
- University of Iowa Healthcare. Cholesterol is necessary for the body to function properly. 19 Oct. 2006. [http://www.uihealthcare.com/reports/cardiovascular/011203cholesterol.html]
- Boston PF, Dursun SM, Reveley MA. Cholesterol and mental disorder. Br J Psychiatry. 1996;169:682–689. [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8968624]