The Sludge Factor
What is the blood fat-depression connection? In a word, viscosity. A high triglyceride level increases blood sludginess, says Charles Glueck, M.D., medical director of the Cholesterol Center of Jewish Hospital in Cincinnati. It's harder for blood to transport sufficient oxygen to brain cells. Under such conditions, mini brain lesions and blood clots may form. Those affected may exhibit symptoms of so-called organic brain syndrome, among them depression and hostility.
Lowering triglyceride levels normalizes serum viscosity and reverses cerebral oxygen deficiency. Other investigators have also observed a positive correlation between triglyceride values, hostile acts, and a domineering attitude. In addition, lowering triglyceride levels improves scores on dementia screening tests in elderly patients. What's more, regimens such as the Pritikin diet, aimed at lowering triglycerides and cholesterol, also reduce depression and hostility, suggesting that cholesterol-lowering medications are not the mood-altering factor.
Obviously, not all psychological or psychiatric disorders are attributable to triglycerides and saturated fats, notes Glueck. Nevertheless, his research suggests that high blood-fat levels can be the sole cause of depression in some cases, and that they may exacerbate mental problems due to other causes. Consequently, Glueck recommends that anyone with a psychiatric problem or who is suffering from depression should have his or her cholesterol and triglyceride levels tested.
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