The liver primarily produces cholesterol. Each day, it makes 1,000 mg of cholesterol. The cells lining the small intestine can also produce cholesterol. If the level of cholesterol in the body is low, it may mean that the body is producing low amounts of cholesterol and is going to shut down. In such cases, immediate medical attention is required.
Hypolipidemia means low levels of blood lipid (cholesterol) in the body. This condition can also indicate malnutrition or the excessive use of high-dose cholesterol medications. Another term for hypolipidemia is hypolipoproteinemia.
Although hypolipidemia is not always a cause for concern, certain cases can lead to other serious health problems. Some studies have even suggested that abnormally low levels of cholesterol can significantly affect a person's overall health.
Causes of Hypolipidemia
The following causes can lead to low cholesterol levels in the body:
- Hyperthyroidism - One of the major causes of hypolipidemia is hyperthyroidism. When there is an excessive production of the thyroid hormone, it causes a lot of health issues, such as sudden weight loss, frequent fatigue, excessive sweating, poor concentration, and abnormally low cholesterol levels.
- Liver Problems - One of the most common causes of hypolipidemia is liver disease. Liver dysfunction and any type of liver damage can cause problems in your cholesterol levels.
- Malnutrition - In some cases, low levels of cholesterol in the body can be simply caused by malnutrition. People need to consume a healthy diet to avoid being ill and experience a number of unpleasant symptoms. To produce cholesterol, the body requires sufficient amounts of food. When there is poor nutrition, there would also be a decrease in the production of cholesterol in the body.
- Malabsorption Syndrome - When there is malabsorption in the intestines, the body will be unable to get the necessary nutrients it needs even if a person consumes enough amount of nutrients. There are a number of conditions that can lead to malabsorption syndrome, and they include celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, and chronic pancreatitis, among others. Because the nutrients present in food are not properly absorbed, complications may arise, such as hypolipidemia.
Other causes of hypolipidemia:
- Abetalipoproteinemia - In this condition, there is an impaired absorption of dietary fat. Moreover, lipoproteins are virtually absent in both metabolic pathways. Its signs and symptoms include sensory neuropathy and visual problems caused by a slow progression of retinal degeneration.
- Hypobetalipoproteinemia - A disorder that is characterized by low levels of LDL cholesterol or apolipoprotein B. The symptoms are similar to that of abetalipoproteinemia and its treatment options are almost the same.
- Chylomicron Retention Disease - Also called as Anderson disease, chylomicron retention disease is a genetic disorder that affects the absorption of certain fat-soluble vitamins, cholesterol, and dietary fats. This condition occurs in infants with symptoms that are similar to that of abetalipoproteinemia.
Symptoms of Hypolipidemia
In this condition, the total blood cholesterol level is low, making the total serum cholesterol also low. The LDL cholesterol level and triglyceride level are also low. The level of HDL may be absent, high, low, or normal.
There is also a link between depressed mood and having less than 150 milligrams per deciliter of blood cholesterol in patients who use illicit drugs and are HIV-positive, according to an abstract presented at the 2000 International AIDS Conference.
The European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience published a study, which showed low levels of fasting serum cholesterol in manic patients. The level was particularly low during mixed bipolar episodes.
One variation of this condition is Tangier disease, which is also called as familial alpha-lipoprotein deficiency. This rare genetic disorder causes the tonsils to have an orange-yellow color along with causing the spleen and liver to enlarge.
In most cases, people with high levels of LDL cholesterol show no symptoms until a stroke occurs or a heart attack takes place. However, you may experience serious chest pain if the coronary artery is blocked. When there is a blockage, blood flow to the heart muscles is reduced.
No chest pain is experienced when the cholesterol level is low. It may also indicate that there is no buildup of fatty substances in the artery. Due to many other causes, depression and anxiety may also arise. Other symptoms may include any of the following:
- Feeling hopeless
- Unable to make decisions
- Mood changes
- Sleep pattern changes
It is optimal when you keep a total cholesterol level below 200 mg/dL with an LDL level below 100 mg/dL to reduce the risk of heart disease. It is widely known that high levels of cholesterol are linked to heart disease, clogged arteries, and metabolic syndrome. However, according to some studies, there is also an increased risk of noncoronary death even if people have low levels of cholesterol. However, these studies still remain controversial.
Moreover, there is a groundbreaking report that was published by the American Heart Association Task Force in 1994. They reported that there is an increased risk of death in people who have a total cholesterol level of less than 160 mg/dL and have any of the following conditions:
- Certain types of cancer
- Respiratory diseases
- Infectious diseases
- Hemorrhagic stroke
From then on, many research studies have shown links between having low cholesterol levels and incidents of aggression, impulsivity, suicide, anxiety, and depression in both genders, adolescents, and adults.
A link between serotonin and cholesterol levels has also been studied. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter and a brain chemical that elevates our mood. If the levels of serotonin are low, then it can lead to mood disorders such as aggression, loss of sleep, and depression. Remember that the way neurons function is also handled by cholesterol. The way our nerve cells function will be altered if the level of cholesterol is too low in our body.
In certain cases, it remains unclear if low levels of cholesterol cause a number of health problems or the other way around. For example, people who are battling depression may have low levels of cholesterol, but there is still no hard evidence stating that lowering cholesterol using statins causes depression.
On the other hand, there are extensive studies that show the benefits of lowering both total and LDL cholesterol, particularly in people who have an increased risk of stroke, heart disease, or both.
Consult your healthcare provider if you are concerned about your cholesterol level. Moreover, do not stop taking your medications without first consulting your doctor.