How Cholesterol Affects Mental Health And What Are The Best Cholesterol-Friendly Foods?

The relationship between cholesterol levels and depression is complicated. On the one hand, it is essential, especially for the brain and mental health. It has a direct impact on the hormone of happiness, serotonin.

On the other, it can damage our blood vessels and, in the worst case, lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Besides, cholesterol performs many other tasks in the body. It is an essential component of the cell membranes and serves as a building block for many hormones. Cholesterol is a precursor of bile acids and other vital compounds like vitamin D. Also, it ensures healthy and strong bones.

Why Should We Care About Mental Health?

Mental health, unfortunately, is still a stigma. Even though it is the most common illness in the world. People still feel that they are weaker if they have a mental illness, they think that they can’t express and tell someone because it is bad to show the weak side of their persona.

So as the number of people suffering from mental illnesses increases, the importance of prevention and health promotion in this field is also growing.

And many people, after dealing with mental illness and struggling with depression and anxiety, decided to end their own lives and what a tragedy is.

And this does not only affect only individuals but our whole society. The increased need for psychiatric and psychotherapeutic health services poses significant challenges for the healthcare system and the social security system.

Low Cholesterol And Depression

We all know that high cholesterol levels increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. But recently, we learned that abnormal blood lipid values could also increase the risk of depression, especially for older people. 

Researchers from the University of Montpellier in France have shown that cholesterol levels in old age can affect mood and mental health. However, the impact and values are different from men and women.

Low cholesterol levels increase the risk of depression. This study shows that men with very low cholesterol levels have a higher risk of experiencing depressive symptoms. The study’s original goal was to understand the relationship between low cholesterol levels and death due to violent causes (eg, suicide and accidents). 

And according to Marie-Laure Ancelin, the principal investigator, in the journal Biological Psychiatry the treatment of abnormal cholesterol levels can help reduce depression in the elderly

HDL, LDL, And Depression:

The relationship between cholesterol levels and depression is a little bit complicated. 

For women, the HDL is associated with depression symptoms: 

French researchers followed a large group of older men and women aged 65 years and older. They found that depressive disorders in women are associated with high levels of the “good” kind of cholesterol, the HDL. So it’s not that good for women. Also, it is associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks, strokes.

For men, the LDL is connected to depressive disorder: 

Depression in men is associated with low levels of “bad” cholesterol, the LDL. The connection is much stronger in men with a genetic susceptibility to depression associated with a serotonin transporter gene.

Besides, the results show that clinical treatments of low cholesterol levels can reduce depression in the elderly. But with different treatments depending on the gender.

LDL cholesterol serum level:

The LDL in the blood seems to be an important biological marker, especially for men with unhealthy lifestyles.

 There is an increased cardiovascular or cerebral vascular risk above a specific range, and below it, there is an increased risk of depression.

Therefore, proper regulation of HDL-C and LDL-C levels could extremely help prevent depression in the elderly, the researchers concluded.HDL, LDL, and depression:

Statins, Cholesterol-lowering Drug, And Depression

According to new research, drugs that supposed to lower blood cholesterol can cause anxiety and depression. 

As we said before, cholesterol is important, especially for the brain and the production of many hormones.

Serotonin is one of these hormones. It affects mood and behavior. That’s why we call it the hormone of happiness. And anything that influences its levels directly impacts the overall mental health. 

Statins are the most used drugs to lower cholesterol. In this study, the scientists used the statin drug mevastatin for clarification.

The Biophysicist Amitabha Chattopadhyay notes that statins work by blocking a key enzyme involved in the production of cholesterol. It drastically affects the levels of serotonin. 

Another study from the American Chemical Society proves the same thing, statines affect the levels of serotonin. 

To understand the relationship between cholesterol and depression more, scientists used human serotonin receptors in animal cells. In the long-term, these drugs can significantly change in the structure and function of serotonin cell receptors.

This process causes chronic low cholesterol levels in the brain and triggers anxiety and depression.

The good news is when cholesterol was added to cells treated with statins, normal values restored.

Another important point is that even lowering cholesterol with a diet can cause psychological problems.

What To Do If You Have High or Low Cholesterol?


There are several ways to control your cholesterol level permanently. The most important thing is to eat a balanced diet with lots of fresh vegetables and fruit. Try to focus on polyunsaturated fatty acids in your diet because they’are more beneficial than animal fat.  

As we said before, cholesterol is essential, so the goal is not to eliminate it from the diet but the get the optimum amount to prevent any heart issues and have a perfectly functioning body at the same time. 

Generally, heart specialists advise a daily intake of 250 to 300 mg of cholesterol and 60 g of fat.  

Furthermore, here are the 10 most cholesterol-friendly foods on earth that are supported by science.

Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, broccoli sprouts, cabbage, and kale):

these vegetables contain an important phytonutrient called Sulforaphane. It is high in potassium, which lowers blood pressure, protects against vasoconstriction and inflammatory diseases, and some types of cancer.

Cheese (Parmesan, processed cheese, Gouda, Edam or sheep’s cheese):

The butyric acid contained in cheese eliminates “bad” cholesterol, reduces high blood fat levels, and protects against heart disease. Also, it promotes intestinal function and reduces the permeability of the intestinal walls for harmful intruders.

Olive oil:

An active cholesterol-lowering agent, rich in unsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E. Olive oil is best when cold-pressed.

Almonds (daily about 20 pieces):

They have a positive effect on blood lipids and blood sugar – the risk factors for many cardiovascular diseases, lower “bad” LDL cholesterol, and increase “good” HDL cholesterol. They also lower blood sugar levels after eating.

Tomatoes (whether meat, vine or cocktail tomatoes):

They have the red dye lycopene: This protects against arteriosclerosis and stops the deposition of blood fat, clots, connective tissue, and calcium in the blood vessels. However, lycopene is only absorbed well by the body when the tomatoes are heated.

Salmon (twice a week):

Salmon and other high-fat fish such as tuna, sardines, and mackerel are extremely rich in omega-3 fatty acids: they help to keep the heart strong, lower blood pressure and improve blood lipid levels.


They are full of vitamins and minerals. The potassium in apples strengthens the muscles and the heart. The pectin it contains improves the blood fat values and binds bile acid in the intestines – this stimulates the liver to provide more supply, and the body uses up cholesterol.


It contains allicin: It dilates the blood vessels, has a blood-thinning effect, and prevents blood platelets from sticking together. In this way, the blood flows better, and clots do not form easily – the perfect weapon against heart disease.

Dark chocolate (max. 6 grams / one piece per day):

It contains plant substances that lower blood pressure and strengthen the heart.


The blue dye in blueberries improves vision, relieves inflammation, fights germs, and is even effective against diarrhea.


Of all the grains, oats are the richest in minerals, vitamins, and protein. The mix of zinc, potassium, iron, and folic acid prevents heart problems.

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