Low cholesterol levels in the blood associated with autism and depression

Over the past several years a new trend is emerging – low cholesterol blood level has been associated with autism, depression and other impulsive behaviors.

There is a connection between the concentration of cholesterol in the brain, particularly in the myelin, and how well the brain functions.

The brain has the highest cholesterol content in the whole body.

Total cholesterol marker in the blood measures all types of cholesterol. Low values (usually values less than 160 mg/dL) are connected with genetic diseases of cholesterol.

Studies have shown that cholesterol supplementation may reverse some symptoms of depression and autism. Research conducted by Dr. Richard Kelly and his colleagues at John Hopkins University (1) found that autistic traits improved after supplementation with dietary cholesterol.

Benefits of supplementing cholesterol in autistic patients range from increased alertness, increased sociability and responsiveness even to family members, learning to walk, decreased head-banging behavior, reduced skin rashes, improved muscle tone, sleeping through the night, a marked decrease in the rate of infections, to even speaking for the first time.

Interestingly, over the years, studies have also shown that many patients being treated by physicians for low cholesterol blood level to lower the risk of heart attacks or strokes may develop other conditions such as depression, increased violent behavior, suicide, bipolar disorder, anxiety and Parkinson’s disease. The cholesterol mantra, “the lower, the better” completely overlooks the probable psychological consequences that may develop with low cholesterol. Therefore, it is vital for health professionals to educate people regarding the maintenance of cholesterol levels in blood and what specific approaches should be adapted to overcome the risks of depression.

Some good sources of cholesterol supplementation include the use of egg yolk, butterfat and whipping cream. An individual egg yolk contains about 250 mg of cholesterol. Also, organ meats like kidneys and beef liver are particularly rich in cholesterol too.

In some cases, it might be appropriate to use pure cholesterol in supplement form under clinician supervision only.

Kelley RT. Inborn errors of cholesterol biosynthesis.
Adv Pediatric 2000; 47:1-53