Reduced cholesterol linked to depression

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The Independent Online
COULD new year blues be caused by eating too much over Christmas? A leading medical journal thinks it is a possibility, in the light of new ideas as to why a drop in cholesterol levels can increase the risk of violent death.

'Perhaps the 'low' that many of us feel at this time of year has something to do with our blood cholesterol returning to normal after the excesses of the festive season,' a comment in tomorrow's issue of the Lancet says.

The journal reports a study by Californian doctors which found that depression was three times more common in men over 70 who had low blood cholesterol levels.

Dr Elizabeth Barrett-Connor and colleagues at the University of California School of Medicine, San Diego, believe that the low cholesterol levels cause a decrease in serotonin, a chemical associated with good mood. They recommend that lowering cholesterol be confined to people at high risk of heart disease.

The Californians say there biologically plausible mechanisms that link low cholesterol and depression. Dr Barrett-Connor says studies in mice point to an association between low cholesterol and low serotonin, 'which in turn are associated with poor suppression of harmful behavioural impulses'.

Health education programmes in schools aimed at cutting smoking in children do not work, according to a study of nearly 4,000 first-year secondary school pupils. The survey, published in tomorrow's British Medical Journal, found that they made no difference to the numbers of children who started, or continued to smoke.