HealthThe presence of anxiety can increase with age and cholesterol levels

The presence of anxiety can increase with age and cholesterol levels

Cholesterol, a lipid found in the body serves important functions such as providing structural support to cell membranes and aiding in the production of vitamin D. While our bodies can produce cholesterol on their own it can also be obtained from certain foods. However it is commonly advised to limit the consumption of high cholesterol foods like bacon, fries and eggs due to their negative impact on our health.

Previous studies have shown that individuals with conditions like Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) Obsessive compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Post traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) tend to exhibit levels of cholesterol. Whether this is due to a production of cholesterol in the liver or an increased intake of fatty foods remains a topic for further investigation. In a study conducted by Xu Hu from the Institute of Psychology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing and published in September 2014 in Behavioral and Brain Functions the effects of a high cholesterol diet on mice were examined. The research revealed that while high cholesterol diets influenced behavior overall they had effects on young versus older mice.

The study involved feeding 40 rats; 20 aged three weeks and 20 aged 20 weeks with foods, for a duration of eight weeks. Once the rats were gathered Hu allowed them to acclimate to the laboratory and their new surroundings for a week. During this adjustment period the rats were given a diet consisting of 32 percent protein 5 percent fat, 2 percent fiber, 1.2 percent phosphorus and no nitrogen. Over the following eight weeks half of the participants were fed a high cholesterol diet comprising of 2 percent cholesterol 10 percent lard, 0.3 percent sodium cholate and 87 percent regular diet. The participants were divided into four comparison groups based on their age and diet;

  • Ten young rats who consumed a regular diet
  • Ten young rats who consumed a high cholesterol diet
  • Ten old rats who consumed a regular diet
  • Ten old rats who consumed a high cholesterol diet

After each feeding period anxiety like behaviors were assessed using an elevated plus maze—a commonly used test for rodent anxiety. The apparatus resembles a three sign with two enclosed arms and two open arms. The open arms lack protective. Expose rodents, to the risk of falling off the maze. Each mouse was placed in the center of the maze facing one of the arms. They had five minutes to explore and navigate through the maze.
The researchers recorded the amount of time the mice spent in both the closed sections of the maze.

A study conducted by Hu found that high cholesterol diets affected rats differently depending on their age. Compared to the rats in a control group young rats on a high cholesterol diet spent more time in the open arms of the maze. On the hand older rats on a high cholesterol diet spent more time in the closed arms compared to older rats in a control group. Hu concluded that these findings indicate that young rats exhibited behavior to being less anxious when consuming a high cholesterol diet while adult rats displayed anxiety like behavior. Further research using models is needed to determine if high cholesterol diets can reduce anxiety, in younger individuals and induce anxiety in adults.


Source: PubMed

Xu Hu, Tao Wang, Jia Luo, Shan Liang, Wei Li, Xiaoli Wu, Feng Jin, Li Wang. Age-dependent effect of high cholesterol diets on anxiety-like behavior in elevated plus maze test in rats. Behavioral and Brain Functions, 1 September 2014; DOI: 10.1186/1744-9081-10-30

Carla Nasca, Ph.D., is a post-doctoral fellow of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in the laboratory of Neuroendocrinology at the Rockefeller University, New York. Dr. Nasca received her B.A. in Molecular Biology and her M.S. in Electrophysiology from the University of Palermo in Italy. She earned her Ph.D. in Neurobiology and Pharmacology from the University Sapienza in Rome, Italy, before moving to The Rockefeller University under the mentorship of Dr. Bruce McEwen.


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