What is Hypocholesterolemia?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 07 October 2016
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Hypocholesterolemia is a condition where people do not have enough total blood cholesterol, usually less than 160 mg/dL in total cholesterol count. In some respects, this condition can be just as dangerous as having hypercholesterolemia, or too much cholesterol in the blood, but that danger may lie more in the fact that the underlying conditions creating low cholesterol levels are, in and of themselves, challenging to treat. It turns out that the human body really needs cholesterol in certain amounts, and when levels of it become too high or too low, problems can result.

Symptoms of hypocholesterolemia are typically related to causes of the condition and may not be noticed. One main cause is taking cholesterol-lowering drugs or statins, and a person taking these may not really notice his cholesterol is lower than normal without blood testing. Other times, underlying conditions are more obvious. For example, this condition can occur when people have cancer or malnutrition, and symptoms of it will be those of the specific cancer or malnutrition.

Similarly, there seems to be a higher incidence of hypocholesterolemia in people who are depressed, or have post-traumatic stress disorder. Additionally, there are some genetic disorders that result in extremely low cholesterol levels. Conditions affecting the thyroid gland, or overactive thyroid may also lower cholesterol levels. Another common cause is diseases that affect absorption of nutrients like celiac disease.


It’s been posited that greater risk for illness and mortality associated with hypocholesterolemia has more to do with the actual diseases that create it. Clearly something like cancer has its own mortality levels, which might elevate risk of death. Depression also has a higher risk factor for suicide, and this might increase morbidity.

It’s easier to link this condition to certain types of body dysfunction, particularly when it is found in young people. Cholesterol helps to build cells and supports growth. When it is not present in large enough supply, growth may not occur normally and development could be undesirably slow. Depending on cause, doctors might treat this in a variety of ways.

If a person taking statins has hypocholesterolemia, the matter is somewhat different. It’s possible that the statin dose might be lowered to bring cholesterol levels back into normal range, or doctors may treat this as not being a “disease” and might ignore it. There is some difference of opinion on this issue in the medical field. While many doctors view the disorder as being caused by disease or other conditions, some doctors think it will result in a variety of diseases if it is not corrected. Medical evidence is not fully clear on this point, and even mortality associated with low cholesterol levels is usually easily attributable to the diseases that seem to cause it.


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