New Links Between Cholesterol and Depression in The Elderly

Philadelphia, PA, 21 July, 2010 - Most people know that high cholesterol levels place them at increased risk for heart disease and stroke. Prior research has shown that particular types of strokes contribute to one’s risk for depression, and that abnormal blood lipid levels can increase the risk of depression in the elderly.

However, new findings by French researchers, published in Biological Psychiatry, suggest the link between increased cholesterol and depression may be complicated. They evaluated a large population of elderly men and women (aged 65 and over) over a seven year follow-up period, assessing them for symptoms of depression and measuring their lipid levels.

They found that, in women, depression was associated with low levels of the “good” form of cholesterol, high density lipoprotein (HDL). This disturbance in their cholesterol levels put them at higher risk for vascular disease, including stroke, by increasing their risk for developing lesions in their blood vessels called atherosclerotic plaques.

In contrast, the men who were at greater risk of depression had low levels of the “bad” form of cholesterol, low density lipoprotein (LDL). This was especially true for those men with a genetic vulnerability to depression related to a serotonin transporter gene.

This finding in men raises important considerations. Although this pattern of low LDL levels seemingly protects them from developing cardiovascular diseases or strokes, this study suggests that it increases their mental health risk at the same time.

Dr. Marie-Laure Ancelin, corresponding author for this study, commented: “Our results suggest that clinical management of abnormal lipid levels may reduce depression in the elderly, but different treatment will be required according to sex. LDL-C serum level seems to be an important biological marker in men, with a narrow range for normal functioning. Above this range, cardio- or cerebro-vascular risk increases and below it, there is increased risk of depression.”

Therefore, the authors suggest that properly regulating the levels of HDL and LDL may help to prevent depression in the elderly. However, particularly careful management of LDL levels in men seems to be warranted. Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry, agreed, noting that “these new data provide yet another important reason that doctors and patients should monitor and regulate cholesterol levels carefully, through a combination of diet and medication.”

# # #

Notes to Editors:
The article is “Gender and Genotype Modulation of the Association Between Lipid Levels and Depressive Symptomatology in Community-Dwelling Elderly (The ESPRIT Study)” by Marie-Laure Ancelin, Isabelle Carrière, Jean-Philippe Boulenger, Alain Malafosse, Robert Stewart, Jean-Paul Cristol, Karen Ritchie, Isabelle Chaudieu, and Anne-Marie Dupuy. Ancelin, Carrière, Boulenger, Malafosse, Stewart, Ritchie, Chaudieu, and Dupuy are affiliated with Institut de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (Inserm) and University of Montpellier 1, Hopital La Colombiere, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire (CHU), Montpellier, France. Boulenger is also with Service de Psychiatrie Adulte, Hopital La Colombiere, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire (CHU), Montpellier, France. Malafosse is also with University Hospital and School of Medicine of Geneva, University of Geneva, Switzerland. Stewart is also with Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, London, United Kingdom. Cristol and Dupuy are affiliated with Laboratoire de Biochimie, Hopital Lapeyronie, CHU, Montpellier, France. The article appears in Biological Psychiatry, Volume 68, Issue 2 (July 15, 2010), published by Elsevier.

The authors’ disclosures of financial and conflicts of interests are available in the article.

John H. Krystal, M.D. is Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine and a research psychiatrist at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System. His disclosures of financial and conflicts of interests are available here.  Full text of the article mentioned above is available upon request. Contact Maureen Hunter at m.hunter@elsevier.com to obtain a copy or to schedule an interview.

About Biological Psychiatry
This international rapid-publication journal is the official journal of the Society of Biological Psychiatry. It covers a broad range of topics in psychiatric neuroscience and therapeutics. Both basic and clinical contributions are encouraged from all disciplines and research areas relevant to the pathophysiology and treatment of major neuropsychiatric disorders. Full-length and Brief Reports of novel results, Commentaries, Case Studies of unusual significance, and Correspondence and Comments judged to be of high impact to the field are published, particularly those addressing genetic and environmental risk factors, neural circuitry and neurochemistry, and important new therapeutic approaches. Concise Reviews and Editorials that focus on topics of current research and interest are also published rapidly.

Biological Psychiatry (www.sobp.org/journal) is ranked 4th out of the 101 Psychiatry titles and 14th out of 219 Neurosciences titles on the 2008 ISI Journal Citations Reports® published by Thomson Scientific.

About Elsevier

Elsevier is a world-leading provider of information solutions that enhance the performance of science, health, and technology professionals, empowering them to make better decisions, deliver better care, and sometimes make groundbreaking discoveries that advance the boundaries of knowledge and human progress. Elsevier provides web-based, digital solutions — among them ScienceDirect, Scopus, Elsevier Research Intelligence, and ClinicalKey — and publishes nearly 2,200 journals, including The Lancet and Cell, and over 25,000 book titles, including a number of iconic reference works.

The company is part of Reed Elsevier Group PLC, a world leading provider of professional information solutions in the Science, Medical, Legal and Risk and Business sectors, which is jointly owned by Reed Elsevier PLC and Reed Elsevier NV. The ticker symbols are REN (Euronext Amsterdam), REL (London Stock Exchange), RUK and ENL (New York Stock Exchange).

Media Contact
Maureen Hunter
Strategic Marketing Manager - Elsevier
+1 215-239-3674
m.hunter@elsevier.com