What are the health implications of low cholesterol?

Originally Published: January 27, 1995 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: August 13, 2004
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Dear Alice,

What are the implications of low cholesterol? Mine has been running between 100 - 110 for several months. Do I have anything to worry about?

—Skinny

Dear Skinny,

Some studies have shown an association between low blood cholesterol levels (<160 milligrams/deciliter) and increased risk for depression, anxiety, respiratory illness, and stroke. However, the nature of this association is not yet understood and the current data doesn't identify low blood cholesterol as the cause of any of these conditions. Unless accompanied by the symptoms of one of the associated illnesses, low blood cholesterol is probably not a matter for major concern. (On the other hand, the link between high blood cholesterol levels and cardiovascular disease is clear and strong.)

Since cholesterol is an essential component of living cells, there is a theoretical lower limit to the amount of cholesterol one's body requires, but generally the liver produces sufficient cholesterol to meet these needs. However, for those still worried about low cholesterol, increasing one's dietary consumption of mono- and poly-unsaturated fats can help raise total cholesterol by boosting HDL, or "good," cholesterol levels (therefore not increasing one's risk for heart disease). Foods containing mono- and/or poly-unsaturated fats include olive oil, nuts, avocados, safflower and cottonseed oils, and fish.

Alice