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Low Cholesterol May Mean
Poorer Mental Powers


We hear plenty about the dangers of high cholesterol levels, but low levels apparently confer their own risks. Naturally low cholesterol levels are associated with poorer performance on a variety of cognitive measures, according to a new study.

"It is not entirely surprising that lower cholesterol levels were associated with moderately lower levels of cognitive function, given (that) cholesterol is important in brain function," Dr. Penelope K. Elias from Boston University stated.

Previous reports have related both high and low total cholesterol levels to deficits in cognitive performance, Elias and her colleagues explain in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.

The team used data from 789 men and 1105 women participating in the original cohort of the Framingham Heart Study to examine the relationship between total cholesterol and cognitive performance.

Individuals in the lowest total cholesterol group (less than 200 units) performed more poorly than patients with higher cholesterol levels on tests of similarities, word fluency, attention/concentration, and overall, the investigators report.

Participants in the lowest total cholesterol group were 49 percent more likely than were participants in the highest total cholesterol group (240-380) to perform poorly, and 80 percent more likely to perform very poorly, the results indicate.

Do the findings raise questions about treating high cholesterol? "It is important to note that we did not examine the association between cognition (and) cholesterol-lowering via medications," Elias explained.

"In fact, a unique aspect of the study was that few of our participants were being treated with anti-cholesterol drugs; in other words, we looked at 'naturally low and high levels of cholesterol'," she pointed out.

"Naturally low levels of cholesterol and lowered levels of cholesterol may have very different ramifications for cognitive function," Elias said. "Thus, our study does not have implications for the guidelines for treatment of high cholesterol."

SOURCE: Psychosomatic Medicine, January/February 2005.


Reference Source 89
February 15, 2005


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